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FAQs Business and the EU Referendum

The CBI represents the views of 190,000 businesses, who employ almost 7 million people in the UK. Read the facts about the business view on the European Union and the EU referendum below.

What is the CBI?

The CBI is the Confederation of British Industry. We are a non-profit, apolitical body. Our purpose is to represent the views of business in the United Kingdom, usually to the Government. We get our mandate from our members to represent them on a wide range of issues.

What do you think about the EU referendum result?

See our initial response here

How do you know what your members think?

A clear majority of CBI member companies – which together employ nearly 7 million people, about one third of private sector employees – believe that it would be in the best interests of their business and the wider UK economy to remain inside the EU.

Like most things, our members have different opinions and we never claim there is a uniform view. Our survey of our members views revealed that 80% think remaining in the European Union is best for their business, with 15% unsure and 5% wanting to leave.

The CBI reaffirmed its member mandate following a rigorous governance process through the organisation’s “business parliament” and publication of a new member survey.

What do other business group's surveys show?

All major UK business organisation and trade association surveys show a majority of those members surveyed favour the UK remaining in the EU. So do independent surveys of businesses conducted by private companies.

    Business organisations:

    Organisation Year Remain or EU is positive Undecided or don't know Leave or EU is negative
    ADS 2016 70% 20% 10%
    BBA 2016 55% 32% 1%
    BCC 2016 60% 9% 30%
    CIA 2016 62% 38% 0%
    CECA 2015 68% 18% 14%
    CBI 2016 80% 15% 5%
    EEF 2016 61% 24% 5%
    FSB 2015 47% 11% 41%
    FDF 2016 71% 17% 12%
    IoD 2016 60% 10% 31%
    SMMT 2016 77% 14% 9%
    TechUK 2016 70% 15% 15%



    Organisation Year Remain or EU is positive Undecided or don't know Leave or EU is negative
    Deloitte 2016 75% 8% 17%
    ECI 2015 91% 3% 6%
    Goldman Sachs 2016 75% 19% 6%
    Grant Thornton 2016 87% 6% 7%
    Ipsos Mori 2016 83% 2% 12%


    What would be the economic impact of leaving the EU?

    We commissioned PwC to conduct independent analysis of different scenarios for the UK leaving the EU: one at the optimistic end of the range, and the other recognising the likelihood of difficult trade negotiations but nonetheless with trade deals being concluded. Both scenarios use moderate assumptions – significantly more pessimistic cases could be constructed.

    Under both PwC scenarios, UK living standards, GDP and employment are significantly reduced compared with staying. The analysis indicates a cost to the British economy of leaving of as much as £100 billion – the equivalent of around 5% of GDP - by 2020. Even in a scenario where a Free Trade Agreement with the EU is secured rapidly, the analysis indicates GDP could be 3% lower by 2020. GDP per household in 2020 could be between £2100 and £3700 lower, and the UK’s unemployment rate between 2 and 3 percentage points higher, than if the UK had remained in the EU. GDP growth in the years 2017-2020 could be seriously reduced – and possibly be as low as zero in 2017 or 2018. 

    Who are the CBI’s members?

    The CBI is a confederation. This means we represent like-minded groups and businesses. There are 140 trade associations who represent lots of smaller and medium sized firms in our membership. We also have businesses who join us directly. In total this means we speak for around 190,000 businesses who employ nearly 7 million people. That is one third of private sector employees.

    Our members come from every sector of the economy:

    • agriculture
    • automotive
    • aerospace 
    • defence
    • construction
    • creative
    • communications
    • financial services
    • Information Technology
    • e-business
    • management consultancy
    • manufacturing
    • professional services
    • retail
    • transport
    • tourism 
    • utilities

    Do you have public sector members?

    Yes. And while public sector members are a tiny proportion of our overall membership and represent less than five per cent of our income, the CBI is proud to represent these organisations as part of its diverse membership. Overall, the CBI speaks for 190,000 businesses of all sizes and sectors who, collectively, shape and influence our stance on relevant issues, including Europe.

    Do you have Trade Association members?

    Yes. The CBI was founded on 3 July 1965 when the British Employers’ Confederation, the Federation of British Industries and the National Association of British Manufacturers joined together to form the Confederation of British Industry.

    The strength of the CBI comes from the breadth of its membership, including 140 trade association members cover every sector of the UK economy. They include a diverse range of firms, from brewers to potters, engineers to creative industries, and agricultural businesses.

    What reform of the European Union has taken place?

    The Government renegotiated the UK's arrangement with the European Union. This was finalised by the Prime Minister at the meeting of the European Council on 19 February 2016.

    The CBI believes that the reforms laid out in this agreement will, if implemented, make the EU work better for British businesses. Of course, different groups will assess the reforms using many different criteria, but coupled with the added impetus the renegotiation process has given to reforms already underway in Brussels, the CBI considers that, overall, business can be pleased with the deal.

    What is the overall benefit of EU membership to households?

    As a contribution to the European Union debate, the CBI has undertaken a literature review of credible academic studies into the impact of the UK’s membership of the EU on the UK economy. This review was first undertaken in 2013, and was updated in 2016 to take account of new studies released recent years.

    The results are intended to be helpful to businesses, opinion formers and the general public who may not easily be able to access and assess all the available academic studies, which are contained in diverse publications and can be hard to compare. 

    The mid-range estimate of the overall benefit to the UK economy of EU membership is around 4-5% of GDP, or £2,700 - £3,300 per household.

    Please find further information here

    Does the CBI get money from the EU to promote it?

    No. We are funded by subscriptions from our membership and do not have to promote the EU. In fact our members expect us to speak out against harmful European legislation on business, as we often do. We regularly represent our members in Brussels and occasionally cooperate with our equivalent sister federations in other European countries.

    Why do you receive money from the European Commission then?

    The CBI conducts a number of monthly and quarterly economic surveys of businesses, on manufacturing, retail, and service sectors, which are an important bellwether of UK business and economic trends. 

    These surveys are used by the European Commission to enable it to collect robust European-wide economic data, as it does from all the 28 EU member states. As part of this, the CBI takes part in a competitive tendering process (every 4 years) to provide data on the UK economy on a regular basis, and as a result the European Commission currently contributes to some of the financing of these economic surveys.

    This amounts to around £148,000 per year, representing around 0.6% of our annual income. It is a measure of the reliability of our data that we are able to do this, and any money received in this way is ring-fenced for this purpose.

    The CBI also sells its economic data to other leading organisations including:

    • Bloomberg
    • Thomson Reuters
    • Factset
    • Haver Analytics
    • Macrobond
    • Global Insight

    We also receive small reimbursements for travel to attend European Social Dialogue meetings. 

    Did you support the UK joining the Euro?

    In the late 1990s, when the UK was seriously considering joining the Euro, the CBI offered in principle support for the UK joining once key conditions were in place to make it a success. Many of these conditions – like the merging of economic cycles and price stability – were similar to the UK Government’s at the time. However, as these criteria were never met, the CBI did not give unqualified support for UK joining the Euro. 

    And whereas the debate on the Euro was about trying to predict the impact of a new initiative – the single currency – today’s EU referendum debate is about the benefits our members tell us they already get from being a part of the EU in the here and now, and how it can be reformed to work even better. There is currently no pressure from the CBI’s membership to adopt the single currency.

    Are you part of the ‘Remain' campaign?

    No. We are not affiliated with any of the 'remain’ or ‘leave’ campaign groups set up in advance of the referendum. 

    What about member donations? Do CBI members need to get shareholder approval at their AGM?

    The referendum does not have any legal impact upon membership of the CBI, regardless of what activity the CBI undertakes. Subscriptions to trade bodies like the CBI are not categorised as political donations, according to the Companies Act 2006, Section 375, and therefore do not require any form of shareholder approval. This holds true even if the CBI itself registers with the Electoral Commission as a permitted participant in the referendum, in order to undertake its business as usual.

    The CBI presently is not planning to register as a permitted participant with the Electoral Commission. The CBI will remain compliant whilst continuing to represent the views of its members in the referendum debate e.g. through press releases and broadcast interviews. The CBI is in touch with the Electoral Commission who have provided guidance and has taken independent legal advice to ensure our plans comply.

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