EU Referendum

EU Referendum: CBI survey suggests most members favour staying in

CBI finds businesses want Britain to remain a member of the EU Image copyright LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

Britain's biggest business lobbying group says 80% of members questioned in a survey want to stay in the EU.

The CBI said the majority of nearly 800 firms taking part felt Britain remaining in Europe was "better for business, jobs and prosperity".

But the group said it would not align itself with either side of the debate.

Vote Leave chief executive Matthew Elliott said: "It's welcome news that the CBI has seen sense and won't be seeking to campaign in the referendum."

Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, said: "The message from our members is resounding - most want the UK to stay in the EU because it is better for their business, jobs and prosperity.

"Walking away makes little economic sense and risks throwing away the many benefits we gain from being part of the EU."

The survey of 773 companies questioned by polling company ComRes found that large organisations within the CBI were more likely than small and medium-sized companies to want to remain in the EU.

Overall, 5% of businesses that took part in the survey thought that it would be in their company's best interests for Britain to leave Europe while 15% were unsure.

'Respect and reflect'

Ms Fairbairn said the CBI would now set out the economic case for the UK remaining in Europe ahead of the referendum on 23 June but said that it would not align itself with any side in the campaign, adding: "It is not our place to tell people how to vote."

She added: "A minority of members want to leave the EU. We will continue to respect and reflect their views and campaign for EU reform to get a better deal for all businesses.

"However, most CBI members are unconvinced that alternatives to full membership would offer the same opportunities. We have yet to see those who seek to leave the EU present a compelling vision of what this would mean for jobs and growth."

John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), recently resigned after being suspended for saying the UK's long-term prospects could be "brighter" outside the EU.

'Voice of Brussels'

The BCC said Mr Longworth had breached the group's non-partisan position on the referendum. It had decided it would not campaign for either side in the forthcoming UK referendum on EU membership.

Vote Leave said the CBI had "consistently misrepresented the views of business on the issue, acting as little more than the Voice of Brussels".

It said the survey was too skewed in favour of big companies to be seen as reflective of British business attitudes towards the EU, pointing out that just 0.1% of UK businesses had more than 250 employees.

More on this story