Three thousand entrepreneurs have signed up in support of Leave.eu, a group in favour of the UK leaving the EU.
They cited red tape, foreign competition and immigration as their primary reasons for favouring a Brexit ahead of the upcoming referendum on EU membership.
The group was set up by business people including Ukip donor Aaron Banks.
Richard Tice, a property developer and chairman of Leave.eu, said the support from small firms stood in stark contrast with the stance of groups such as the CBI. “It shows that Britain’s business community is split on this key issue for the UK economy,” he said.
Polling company Survation carried out a study, interviewing hundreds of entrepreneurs from small businesses who support Leave.eu, with signatures spanning industries including hospitality, catering, carmaking, retail and construction.
Of those, 31 per cent said they felt their firm would be better off outside the EU as they were hostile to the influx of unskilled migrant workers from the rest of Europe. Taxi drivers, builders and those in the removals business were among those who pointed to wage competition as a reason for them favouring a Brexit.
Some 29 per cent said they were frustrated by regulations coming from Brussels, with a recurrent theme in interviews seeing entrepreneurs mentioning “too many laws”, “nonsensical red tape”, “bureaucracy” and “rules and regulations”.
Then ten per cent felt they were being undercut by foreign competition.
The small business outlook when it comes to EU membership has seemed mixed, based on recent research. While the FSB found smaller firms were more torn over the issue than larger companies, a study commissioned by Conservative party donor Howard Shore, found most small businesses want David Cameron to negotiate a new treaty with the EU.
Three-quarters of 601 business owners said they wanted Britain to take back powers from Brussels so it could negotiate its own trade deals, while more than 40 per cent said the EU was hindering their business.
Emma Jones, meanwhile, who runs Enterprise Nation, told the Financial Times that small businesses “are telling us they don’t want to leave the EU”. Being in makes trader easier.
The Leave.eu group has been vying with Vote Leave to win official designation as the Out camp, ahead of the vote. Vote Leave, says it wants to negotiate a new deal based on free trade and co-operation.
It is funded by a range of people including Conservative party donor Peter Cruddas, Labour’s biggest private backer John Mills along with former UKIP treasurer Stuart Wheeler. Supporters include Labour’s Kate Hoey and UKIP’s Douglas Carswell.
Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.