BMW board member Ian Robertson has reaffirmed BMW's position that it strongly believes in the business case for the UK remaining inside the European Union ahead of a national referendum on the matter planned before the end of 2017.

“We believe that the UK should remain a part of the European Union,” he told journalists at an SMMT briefing in London.

He also reiterated the view that the auto industry in Britain benefits from being involved in Brussels decision making.

“Being at the table with legislative and developments in our industry is a much better place than being outside. With the manufacturing resources here, of which a significant amount of output gets shipped to the European Union – over 50% – that makes a very strong position to remain part of the EU.”

However, he also suggested that BMW is prepared for different scenarios regarding the UK's future position.

“As a company we have investments all around the world. Whatever happens in the referendum, we would consider that at the time, but we believe there are significantly more benefits to staying in than not.”

Opinion polls of UK public opinion on continued EU membership have varied considerably. Early polls suggested a sizeable majority for staying in the EU, but more recent polls suggest that the 'out' camp has gained some support as the EU's migrant crisis has captured headlines.

Some analysts and commentators have suggested that a 'no' vote in a referendum would be followed by a swiftly negotiated free trade deal between the EU and UK, minimising business disruption. Companies such as BWW, they argue, enjoy sizeable profit on high value exports to the UK market and would therefore put pressure on their governments to do a trade deal quickly. Others argue that the unprecedented nature of a so-called 'Brexit' makes it subject to uncertainties that would deter investment from the UK.