In a poll taken at the Microlise Transport Conference last week, attended by over 1,000 senior industry delegates, a 44% majority reported they would vote for Brexit next month, despite 43% feeling that leaving the EU would negatively impact the haulage industry.
Reflecting that many in the industry now have less concern about a Brexit, the result shows a 7% shift in sentiment since a year earlier when, asked if an UK exit would damage the industry, 50% of delegates believed the impact of a Brexit would be negative.
Delegate numbers remained almost identical in terms of those feeling Brexit would make no impact on the industry (7% in 2015 vs 8% in 2016) and those feeling a UK split from the EU would be positive (20% in 2015 vs 21% in 2016).
In the survey, when asked how delegates will vote, 41% said they would choose to remain, reflecting public opinion polls which place both campaigns neck-and-neck. In the survey 16% stated they are unsure of how they would vote on 23rd June.
The questions were posed before and after a special Brexit debate live at Europe’s largest road transport conference on 18th May where the official Britain Stronger in Europe and Vote Leave campaigns were represented.
“These findings really are surprising,” said Nadeem Raza, Chief Executive Officer of Microlise. “With the majority feeling leaving the EU would be damaging, one would expect the remain vote to be the most prevalent within our industry. However the results clearly show that Vote Leave had a slim lead for our audience of 1,000 professionals.”
Former Conservative MP Paul Uppal, who once chaired the All Party Urban Development Group, held positions at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spoke on behalf of Stronger In.
“Ultimately the uncertainty that we are going to face by choosing to go down the Brexit option will just compound the fact that what we have at the moment is tremendous uncertainty. That will not be good for business. I don’t believe it is in the long-term interests of the UK; I don’t believe it is in the long-term interest of our European partners and of the global economy as well,” said Uppal, speaking at the Microlise Transport Conference.
Later he went on to say: “I actually feel we would be better off together. The world is an incredibly unstable place, politically, socially and economically. I think, despite its faults, and I accept that there are faults, we should be at the centre of that and I think we should be driving the agenda and the debate.”
Arguing in favour of Brexit for Vote Leave was Andrew Baxter, owner and Managing Director of large independent transport operator Europa Worldwide Group, who during his address said: “We have nothing to fear from leaving the EU. Don’t believe the scare stories that are being put about. The good news is that on the 23rd of June you can do what is morally right, what is democratically right, what is economically right, something that is good for you, good for your country and good for Europe.”
During the session, each speaker was given five minutes to address the audience, with the remaining time opened to questions. Conference host and motoring journalist Quentin Willson moderated the session, taking audience questions and hosting the discussion.