New Survey Finds Majority of Social Enterprise Leaders Would Vote to Stay in EU

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A survey* carried out by Social Enterprise UK (SEUK) has found that three-quarters (74%) of those running social enterprises would vote for Britain to stay in the European Union (EU) if a referendum were held. This compares to 1 in 7 (15%) who would vote for Britain to leave.

Social enterprises are businesses with a social and/or environmental mission which reinvest their profits. There are approximately 70,000 social enterprises in the UK, employing nearly a million people and contributing £24 billion to the economy.

Of the social enterprise leaders surveyed, 67% said they would be worried if Britain left the EU because of access to European social funds; 54% said they would be worried about access to European markets; and 43% said that they would be worried about the possibility of the Scottish Government (who are keen to stay as a member of the EU) pushing for another referendum. 1 in 8 (16%) said they were not worried about a departure.

Two-thirds (63%) said there are no advantages for their social enterprises of Britain leaving the EU. However, some expressed positives about a departure: 24% said less social and environmental regulations (red tape) would be beneficial, and 21% said they would have more direct access to global markets (because the EU currently negotiates on behalf of Britain).

The survey also found that:

  • 58% social enterprise leaders said that the future of their social enterprise would not be at risk if Britain left the EU, compared with 22% who said it would.
  • 33% of social enterprises employ non UK EU nationals.
  • 18% of social enterprises export to the EU, while 15% export to countries outside of the EU.
  • 36% of respondents said that their social enterprise would not grow if Britain left the EU, 40% said it would make no difference to their growth, and 10% said their social enterprise would grow.

Peter Holbrook CBE, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK said:

“As the Prime Minister seeks to negotiate a better deal for Britain, we were interested to find out what those running social enterprises thought of Britain’s membership of the European Union and how they would vote in a referendum. This research shows that the majority of social enterprise leaders surveyed would prefer to stay in the EU, and perhaps unsurprisingly, not being able access to European funding would be s concern for some social enterprises if Britain were no longer a member of the EU.”