25 January 2016

Poll suggests Britain’s tech scene backs EU membership


A new poll released today indicates that Britain’s tech and media entrepreneurs are overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the European Union.

In the poll by YouGov, 88% of founders, owners and chief executives of some of Britain’s most promising tech start-ups across a range of industries including IT & telecoms, media and financial services, would vote to remain in the EU, if the referendum were held today. That support for staying in was mirrored by the findings among FTSE company chairmen and CEOs. But the poll also suggests that bosses of smaller and medium-sized businesses are much more sceptical, backing staying in by only 47% to 42%.

There is growing anticipation in Westminster and Brussels that a deal will be done and announced at the next European Council summit of leaders on the 18-19th February, followed by a vote as early as June. The British Prime Minister is renegotiating the UK’s relationship with the 28-member union, and is seeking reform on competitiveness, economic governance, immigration and national sovereignty.

Today’s poll also suggests that emerging business leaders believe Britain’s position as a global “tech gateway” would be negatively affected outside the EU, while 72% of founders say that a British exit would adversely affect their ability to attract the best talent.

Of the 42 leading tech entrepreneurs surveyed, with the assistance of Founders Forum, a networking organisation, over half represent enterprises which made over £3m or less in turnover in their first year. All of them wanted Britain to remain in the European Union.

Jonathan Goodwin, co-founder of Founders Forum, said: “This poll shows clearly where the British tech entrepreneurial community stands on the Brexit. There is real concern that a decision to leave will undermine the incredible progress British founders have made in the global digital space – in particular by attracting European businesses to set up, and create jobs, here.”

However, when asked whether a British exit would cause them to consider leaving Britain to relocate elsewhere, only 21% of founders agreed, suggesting that there are factors other than the benefits of EU membership that draw entrepreneurs to the UK.

It also emerged today that Sir Rocco Forte, chief executive of Rocco Forte Hotels, has urged British voters to leave the EU, arguing that the country is better off with a trading relationship with Europe, regaining full control of its social and fiscal policy. He said: “If we went alone it would increase our reputation and clout in the world, not reduce it. The president of China came here because we’re Britain, not because we’re part of the EU.”

Zac Tate is Deputy Editor of CapX