Responding the announcement that the EU referendum will take place on 23 June 2016, Black Country Chamber of Commerce President, Ninder Johal said: “The most important issue for us as a Chamber is ensuring that our business leaders understand the implications of remaining in or leaving the EU. Our latest survey shows that only 3% of manufacturers and 28% of service sector organisations in the Black Country have enough information to assess the potential impacts on their businesses." "2% of manufacturers and 43% of service sector organisations believe they have enough information to assess the potential impacts on the UK as a whole.

“Despite the perceived success of the Prime Minister’s negotiations, only 50% of manufacturers were very or somewhat familiar with the proposals for a new settlement for the UK within a reformed EU. For service sector organisations it was 42%.

“The last time we asked our members, 66% told us that they would vote to stay in a reformed EU. Nevertheless, when I talk to our members it is clear that their workforce are often being informed by the popular media and do not understand the impact remaining or exiting the EU will have on their employer and their jobs. The Chamber has a role to play to ensure that business leaders can inform their workforce correctly.

“According to a recent British Chambers of Commerce survey of West Midlands businesses, if the referendum were held tomorrow; 50% of members would vote for Britain to stay in the EU and 38% would vote for Britain to leave the EU.

"Reducing red tape is always welcomed by Black County businesses, but as we have reported before, much of the burdensome regulation is generated as a result of Whitehall’s interpretation of EU regulation. Strengthening the internal market is probably a legally unenforceable aspiration but it is very important that all businesses across the EU are subject to the same rules. Migration is high on people’s minds but we believe that business should be able to recruit from anywhere in the world if they are unable to secure skilled people from their local areas. Although a separate issue, the lack of skills amongst local people remains business critical and must remain a priority regardless of the outcome of the referendum.

“It appears that the real choice facing businesses and businesspeople across the West Midlands is between remaining in a largely unchanged EU, albeit with some potential new safeguards for the UK, or a future outside the EU, with the near-term uncertainty and the unquantifiable disruption of leaving.

“We will be offering a range of options for our members to become engaged with the debate, all with the express purpose of informing them. We know that this is a highly emotive subject and that politics and ideologies will come to the fore. The Black Country Chamber of Commerce will help businesses navigate through the options so they fully understand the economic and political implications of their voting decisions in the short and longer term.”