Most freelancers want to be in EU, survey finds

Monday 2 November 2015

One of the big political debates set to rumble on for the next couple of years is whether Britain should be part of the European Union.

Campaigns have been launched on either side of the argument ahead of an 'in/out' referendum, which the government has said will take place at some point before the end of 2017.

Opponents to EU membership say it hinders British business and growth with excessive legislation, costs and regulations, while supporters argue that being part of a united Europe benefits the country through easier trade and collaboration with fellow member states.

As far as the UK's 1.9 million independent workers are concerned, being part of the EU is a good thing, according to a recent survey by the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE).

Over 3,100 freelancers, contract workers and sole traders were polled, 61 per cent of whom said they would vote for Britain to remain part of Europe if the referendum were held tomorrow.

Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) would vote for a 'Brexit' (leaving the EU) and 14 per cent were undecided.

One of the big issues in the debate is EU reform, with some people and organisations saying they would want to see some significant changes pushed through before voting for Britain to stay in the union.

Four out of ten respondents to the IPSE survey (41 per cent) said staying in the EU would be the best thing for their business regardless of reforms, while 29 per cent could be convinced that continued membership would be beneficial for them in professional terms.

Only 12 per cent saw departure as the only option for their business. 

Regulations that come out of Brussels but affect British workers and companies are often the focus of criticism for opponents to EU membership.

Among those calling for reforms in the IPSE research, this emerged as the area where most freelancers want to see change. Nearly two in three (64 per cent) said it should be a priority that the UK government doesn't "gold-plate" EU rules by making regulations in Britain stricter than in other nations.

Six out of ten self-employed people (61 per cent) said all members of the union should implement the same rules to ensure a level playing field within the single market.

Another finding showed that 24 per cent of respondents thought their business would have a lighter regulatory burden if Britain were to leave the EU, but 27 per cent disagreed with this idea.

The majority (61 per cent) of freelancers and contract workers said a 'Brexit' would make it harder to trade in EU markets.

Chris Bryce, chief executive of IPSE, said: "At the moment, a clear majority of freelancers are saying that a 'remain' vote will be best for business. Once the package of proposed reforms is confirmed and a date has been set, we will go back to our members to see if this has changed how they intend to vote.

"The survey raised a number of points of uncertainty. We found many freelancers don't understand the implications of staying in the EU or leaving. With microbusinesses making such an important contribution to the UK economy, it's essential that the self-employed are clear about the implications of a vote either way."

By Victoria McDonnell

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