FOR several years there has been an assumption in Britain that the business community is broadly in favour of UK membership of the European Union and positively disposed also to membership of the single currency. However, according to a new survey of 1'000 chief executives, undertaken by ICM for the New Frontiers Foundation, there has been a sea-change in attitudes to the EU: 59 per cent of those questioned believe that the new EU constitution will be bad for their business and only 18 per cent are clearly satisfied that it will be to their advantage. Even without the constitution there is dissatisfaction with the EU: 73 per cent think that it is a failure as an institution and agree with the statement that Britain will be more prosperous and secure if we keep the pound and take back powers from the EU. This will be music to Michael Howards' ears but it will not bring any comfort to No 10 Downing Street as they contemplate the promised referendum on an EU constitution, if and when it is brought into being . One can ignore the ludicrous outcome of the Sun newspaper readers' 97 per cent vote against the referendum the other day; it was an unstructured phone-in vote and meant nothing. In truth, 97 per cent of Sun readers could probably not quote a single provision of the constitution. Nonetheless, it is probably true to say that there is now not a single major segment of the British people which is clearly well-disposed to the European Union or its proposed constitution. In the case of the business community the benefits of the single market have been absorbed and exploited but what Brussels is now seen to be standing for is increasingly intrusive regulation.
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