But the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which represents firms employing nearly seven million people, will not align itself with any EU referendum campaign group.
The group’s final decision follows a survey of member organisations which indicated 80 per cent of firms believed remaining in the EU would be best for their businesses, with just 5 per cent saying it would be in their best interests to leave and 15 per cent unsure.
The ComRes poll indicated that 71 per cent of small and medium-sized firms believed that remaining part of the 28-member bloc would be in their best interests, with 11 per cent favouring a Brexit.
The survey formed part of a consultation process with the CBI’s members and governing structures, leading to a final decision by the chairmen’s committee – the organisation’s highest policy-making body – to back making the case to remain in the EU.
But the CBI will not register with the Electoral Commission as a participant in the 23 June referendum contest.
The CBI’s director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said: “The message from our members is resounding – most want the UK to stay in the EU because it is better for their business, jobs and prosperity. Walking away makes little economic sense and risks throwing away the many benefits we gain from being part of the EU.
“Our members tell us that having guaranteed access to a tariff-free market of 500 million people, and to more than 30 global trade deals covering 50 countries, are significant advantages that outweigh the frustrations.
“A minority of members want to leave the EU. We will continue to respect and reflect their views and campaign for EU reform to get a better deal for all businesses.
“However, most CBI members are unconvinced that alternatives to full membership would offer the same opportunities. We have yet to see those who seek to leave the EU present a compelling vision of what this would mean for jobs and growth.
“We will not align ourselves with any campaign. Though prosperity, jobs and future living standards matter to many people, we recognise there will be other considerations.
“It is not our place to tell people how to vote, but the CBI will play its role in making the economic case for remaining in the EU.”