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Around 40pc of Birmingham businesses want a Brexit

Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce says it will now remain neutral in the debate after survey showed opinion over EU referendum is reasonably even

Britain and the European Union
West Midlands businesses are divided over the UK's future in Europe

Nearly four out of ten businesses in Birmingham and the surrounding area want to leave the European Union.

And the chamber of commerce which represents them has announced it will be neutral in the battle to decide whether to quit the EU, leading up to a referendum on June 23.

The number of employers which want to quit is a blow to campaigners who claim that voting 'leave' in the referendum will damage the economy and cost jobs.

EU supporters say that businesses are on their side. But in the West Midlands, the nation's manufacturing heartland, 38 per cent of firms want to go.

Half of local businesses want to stay in the European Union.

The findings were published by Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, which covers Birmingham, Burton, Cannock Chase, Lichfield, Tamworth and Solihull.

Chief executive Paul Faulkner said: "According to a recent British Chambers of Commerce survey of West Midlands businesses, if the referendum were held tomorrow, 50 per cent of members would vote for Britain to stay in the EU and 38 per cent would vote for Britain to leave the EU.

"As a result, we will not be campaigning for either Remain or Leave, given the very real divisions that exist in business communities across the UK."

Instead of taking sides, the chamber would organise a series of events to help people understand the issues for business and the consequences of staying in or leaving, he said.

He added: "The complex issue of migration will also be high on people's minds. The needs of business for skills and labour must be balanced with the social impact."

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