Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Survey confirms trend

The most encouraging aspect of the survey published in the Times and other newspapers this morning on business attitudes to the constitution is that it simply confirms a trend.

Readers of the Blog will recall the London Chamber of Commerce survey published in the Evening Standard on 22 April which reported that 55.9 percent of the 423 companies quizzed said they did not back the constitution.

Then there was the FSB conference motion last month, where members rejected the constitution by a massive 104,178 votes to 5310 - a 95 percent majority.

Today’s report in the Times - commissioned by the New Frontiers Foundation - has almost two thirds of businesses (59 percent) opposing the constitution, beleiving that it would surrender “crucial powers to a failing EU”, with only 18 per cent disagreeing.

This is entirely consistent with earlier findings and demonstrates a healthy opposition to the Blair project. It and does indeed, as The Times asserts, deal a severe blow to his hopes of building a broad coalition to fight a referendum campaign.

One almost has to admire the pluck of “yes” campaigner, Lucy Powell – she of Britain in Europe – who claimed that when the myths surrounding the constitution were dispelled, its popularity would grow. “It’s hardly surprising that the constitutional treaty appears to be unpopular as anti-Europeans have been peddling scare stories for months,” she said.

“I am confident that when business people come to consider the facts and realise that the real risk is not this treaty but the consequences of a ‘no’ vote - pushing us to the margins of Europe - they will deliver a resounding vote in favour.”

Despite Powell’s confidence, it seems British business has already made up its mind. If the “yes” campaign can only resort to the tired old argument about “isolation” – the same line it took in the 1975 referendum – it is hardly likely to claw back any significant support.

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