Over half of small UK business owners are in favour of joining the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), according to new survey findings, as support for the so-called “Norway option” gains traction.
After polling over 1,200 entrepreneurs, Funding Circle found that EFTA membership had become a priority for small businesses.
By joining EFTA, Britain would retain access to the European single market, via the European Economic Area (EEA), but would remain outside of the EU’s realm of influence.
EFTA currently consists of four European nations – Norway, Iceland, Liechenstein and Switzerland – while the EEA includes all EU member states and EFTA members.
The ease of exporting and importing were cited as the greatest benefits of EFTA membership (59 per cent). Other factors included the larger customer base (46 per cent) and lower trading tariffs (42 per cent).
Only 15 per cent of respondents were opposed to joining the EEA.
The UK initially left EFTA in 1972, but since the Brexit vote in 2016, membership has been touted as the least economically damaging option for Britain after it leaves the EU.
However, EFTA members have no say over EU politics. Membership would require Britain to maintain its EU budget payments and also limit the government’s ability to curtail freedom of movement.
Commenting on the findings, James Meekings, Funding Circle co-founder and UK managing director, said: “Small business owners are clearly doing their homework on Brexit and researching all the possible options.
“It’s evident that joining EFTA is a priority within the small business community and it’s important that we listen to ensure we achieve the best possible outcome for their growth and success.”
Support for the Norway option within the small business community has increased alongside that of the Labour Party, the research showed, suggesting that the party’s talk of “retaining the benefits of the single market” has resonated with business owners.
While 37 per cent would still vote for the Conservative Party, 20 per cent would now vote Labour – a seven per cent increase since April.
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