Why it matters what entrepreneurs think about Brexit

Campaigners for Remain and Leave are keen to ally themselves with entrepreneurs. And the media regularly and willingly reports what individuals and groups of entrepreneurs think about the EU Referendum. But should we value their views above the general population?  

I think we should. After all, entrepreneurial companies often produce higher quality innovations, are more efficient and generate a disproportionate share of employment and productivity growth. To a greater extent than most of the population, entrepreneurs are more tuned into the factors that will impact Britain’s future economic success. Afte rall, they also have more skin in the game. If you were to build a scale of people whose views on the EU Referendum deserves to be listened to most, entrepreneurs would be near the top. What public sector workers approaching retirement think about the EU Referendum has less to tell us about what’s good for society than what entrepreneurs think.

So, what do entrepreneurs think about the EU Referendum? Headlines have been made by a few high-profile statements by individual or groups of entrepreneurs, but these – because of the relatively low numbers – should be dismissed. On the level of the individual, two entrepreneurs can have diametrically opposite views. And it’s easy enough to bring together a group of entrepreneurs who are principally motivated by ideal like sovereignty or the European ideal – even ahead of the success of their business. These motivations are legitimate but not unique to entrepreneurs and so not special.

Surveys offer the greater insight. And in survey after survey entrepreneurs are decidedly split on the benefits of leaving the EU. In most surveys, entrepreneurs running large businesses tend to be more favorable to the EU than smaller businesses. Should we take them more seriously? After all, they are self-evidently more successful. Perhaps, but working against this is the fact that entrepreneurs running large businesses are more likely to have the characteristics of managers as opposed to entrepreneurs. This suggests that the pros and cons of Brexit for entrepreneurs – and so for society at large – are more balanced than many on the extremes of the debate would have you believe.

The Entrepreneurs Network is running an event on 16th June with Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, Raoul Ruparel, Co-Director of Open Europe, Allie Renison of the Institute of Directors and Roland Smith, Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute – all of whose opinions we should value very highly. (Perhaps even more than entrepreneur.)