Jane Padgham, Evening Standard
22 April 2004
This somewhat vindicates Howard's stategy of refusing to fall into Blair's trap of turning the referendum into an "in-out" contest.
TONY Blair suffered a fresh setback to his hopes of signing up Britain to a European Union constitution as a new survey showed the majority of London businesses are opposed to the move.
The poll by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry revealed 55.9% of the 423 companies quizzed said they did not back the proposal.
Only 7.4% were in favour of the constitution while 34% said they supported it in parts. The findings come a day after a poll for The Sun showed a landslide 97% opposed to the constitution.
A majority of London firms - 57.8% - still favour Britain retaining EU membership, however.
'Our findings show many businesses are disillusioned with the EU, although there is still broad support for membership,' said the chamber's chief executive Colin Stanbridge, adding one of the main causes of this was the burden of red tape perceived as emanating from Brussels.
In other findings, 45.3% considered EU membership beneficial to Britain compared with 15.6% who said it was not and 37.1% who were undecided. But an overwhelming 86.7% were opposed to moves to harmonise taxation within the EU.
On the question of Britain adopting the euro, 29.3% wanted to do so as soon as possible and 18.8% in the future. But 25% said Britain should never join and 34% said advocated a wait-and-see stance.