23 March 2016

UK chemical engineers are IN for Europe

Union Jack and EU flags
A new survey of IChemE members reveals that supporters of Britain’s continuing membership of the European Union outweigh those inclined to vote for ‘Brexit’, by a ratio of more than three to one.

Over 1,000 IChemE members in the UK responded to the survey, which reveals that 75% will vote to ‘remain’ in the EU when the vote takes place on Thursday 23 June. Only 2% are undecided, or planning to abstain, suggesting that minds are made up on both sides of the debate.

A clear majority of IChemE members believe that ‘Brexit’ would have a negative impact on many aspects of their professional lives with concerns around inward investment, collaboration and research funding at the forefront. Consequently, strong support for continuing membership is evident across all sectors, including upstream oil and gas (70%), downstream chemicals (71%), power generation (76%) and higher education (88%).

Antipathy towards Europe amongst male respondents’ increases with age, reinforcing the commonly held view that support for the 'leave' campaign is strongest amongst older men. Conversely, early career chemical engineers are far more likely to vote 'remain', with around 80% of the students’ surveyed expressing support for Britain's continuing EU membership.

The gender profile of the survey respondents suggests that, whilst men are more inclined to express a view on the European question, female IChemE members are less likely to take a Eurosceptic position - with only 7% wanting to cut ties with Brussels.

Opposition to EU membership is strongest amongst IChemE members in Yorkshire with 43% indicating an intention to vote to 'leave'.

Strong views were expressed on both sides of the debate:

“We are a small country in a big world - we need to be part of something bigger. The EU itself needs reform and we should do this from the inside.”

- Male, late forties working for London based process engineering contractor

“You only have to look at the disaster that is UK power generation to conclude that we are better out of the EU, where we can control our own destiny.”

- Male, early sixties working in a consultancy role in the West Midlands

“As a student graduating this year, it would limit my possibilities as many of the larger companies operate across Europe and it helps to be able to work across those locations really easily.”

- Female, student, early twenties studying in North East England

“I am wary of surrendering political freedoms for perceived economic benefits. The EU operates with a democratic deficit compared to the UK. Endorsing that for perceived financial benefit is illiberal, immoral and illegal.”

- Male, early late twenties, employed at a chemical plant in Yorkshire

Commenting on the survey findings, IChemE’s director of communications, Andy Furlong said:

“Although national opinion polling suggests that the referendum result may be too close to call right now, this survey suggests that, within professional chemical engineering circles, there is very strong support for Britain’s continuing membership of the European Union. A clear majority of IChemE members will vote to stay in.”

He went on to say:

IChemE takes a neutral position on the referendum question. Nonetheless, we actively encourage our members to rise above the scaremongering and mudslinging, engage in informed debate and to vote on 23 June. Chemical engineering matters in Europe and in the UK, but whatever the referendum result, we will continue to support our 44,000 members who collaborate and network across more than 120 countries.”

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IChemE is a registered charity in England & Wales (214379), and a charity registered in Scotland (SC 039661).