Something for the Conservatives to chew on this time: The Business reports that international business leaders are turning against the single market.
A poll carried out by Opinion Leader Research for Chatham House – not exactly known for its Eurosceptic tendencies – finds that an overwhelming 63 percent of top executives surveyed thought that over-regulation was destroying European competitiveness.
The poll surveyed 451 senior business leaders in multinational companies. Of the executives interviewed, 341 were from EU member states, 60 from the US and 50 from Japan.
Some 49 percent thought that North America was "business-friendly" while only 25 percent named the EU. Less than half (49 percent) believed the EU was helping business to compete globally and that the single market had benefited their own businesses.
In the past, executives from global businesses have been the most enthusiastic and unconditional supporters of the EU, which makes the results of this poll especially striking, especially when 72 percent believe the EU should focus more on making existing regulations work better.
Interestingly, 55 percent of respondents say that "the single market should not means a uniform market". Their favourite cure to the EU's economic problems is to cut taxes, a policy endorsed by 66 percent of those who replied to the survey.
Chatham House also recorded some interviews, with one business leader saying that, relative to the US, it took 12 times longer and cost four times as much to set up in business in Europe; another said that it took twice as long and cost five times as much to get a patent in Europe as in the US."
Unsurprisingly, British executives were the most sceptical of the single market's merit, with 58 percent believing that North America was more business-friendly than Europe; 54 percent said that the EU was not helping European businesses to compete globally, while a mere 14 percent thought that the EU was helping.
Given that support for the single market is an article of faith with the Conservative parliamentary party, with many MPs terrified of speaking out against it in case their business friends take fright, Mr Howard might have cause to think about whether he should be quite so firm in his support for the status quo.