'47% of firms want UK looser in EU'
Nearly half of UK firms back a "looser" British relationship with the European Union while remaining members of the club, a new survey shows.
Only 9% of firms want closer integration, 12% want to leave the EU altogether, 26% want the relationship to stay as it is and 6% are unsure, according to a poll conducted last June by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) involving 1,840 of its members.
That leaves 47% opting for "a looser relationship ... but with the UK remaining a member of the EU" in findings published as Prime Minister David Cameron finalises his long-awaited speech setting out his vision of Britain's EU future.
Mr Cameron is, within a fortnight, to use a major policy speech to set out details of a new EU "settlement" he wants to negotiate to repatriate some sovereign powers from Brussels.
The BCC called for a "pragmatic" renegotiation to reflect the interests of UK businesses across the economy.
BCC director general John Longworth said: "After months of endless press speculation the time has come for the Prime Minister to set out how the Government intends to tackle the question of Britain's future place in Europe.
"Businesses across Britain are pragmatic and want both a renegotiated relationship and a reinvigorated single market."
He urged Mr Cameron to "ignore the siren songs of both the europhiles and the europhobes, and negotiate a new European settlement that is in Britain's national economic interest".
"Inaction on Europe favours only global companies and the Brussels elite, while sleepwalking towards the exit door without a plan favours no one at all," Mr Longworth warned.
"We should not be afraid to set out our stall because we start with a strong negotiating position. Our trade with the rest of Europe is in deficit, so it is not in Europe's interest to exclude the UK."