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OPTIMISM among entrepreneurs in the south appears to be stabilising, according to the latest report on business sentiment.

Their views are shown in the latest findings of the Enterprise Index by accountancy and investment management group Smith & Williamson, with the firm’s south coast office covering the Portsmouth area.

The quarterly index, which has a benchmark of 100, measures entrepreneurial confidence. It is now just above 106, compared to nearly 108 in the previous quarter.

Chris Appleton, the senior partner at the 60-strong practice and the entrepreneurs specialist, said: ‘During this year the Index has been in the range between 105 and 109, with a closing reading of 106.2 in the third quarter. This implies that confidence has stabilised here in the south.

‘Our report tests the temperature of job-creating entrepreneurs – it is always interesting to see how they feel on the issues that affect business.’

More than 70 per cent of the index’s respondents indicated that they anticipated that their export turnover would increase this year.

John Longworth, director general of the British Chamber of Commerce, says despite a wealth of healthy export figures being recorded recently, there is still more that the UK must do if it is to reach its full exporting potential.

He said: ‘We need to transform the domestic mindset of those businesses by creating an environment that makes it worthwhile for them to export.’

According to the survey, more than 60 per cent believe that the UK is better off inside the EU.

Chris Muktar, co-founder of WikiJobs, said he believed that the UK is better off inside the EU because ‘countries outside the EU face tougher conditions’.

He said: ‘While it’s true that the UK may be paying more than its fair share to the EU, this is a short-sighted view.

‘You need to ask what the EU might look like in 50 years and what the relationship of the UK to that might be.’