A new survey of more than 200 senior decision makers in South East businesses has given insight into their priorities in the aftermath of the EU Referendum on 23 June.
A clear majority (62 per cent, rising to 72 per cent in businesses with a £5m+ turnover) want the government to make continued access to the single market its priority when negotiating the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. Two-thirds say they will be worse off if access is limited and just six per cent think they will be better off.
The findings come in a survey of regional businesses carried out by law firm Cripps in association with business-to-business specialists Insider Media. The survey was conducted between 8 August and 2 September 2016.
Other headline results include 51 per cent of respondents believing they would be harmed by restrictions on free movement, 37 per cent saying it would make no difference and just 12 per cent feeling they would be better off.
“Given that migration was portrayed as playing a major role in the Brexit vote, it appears from these responses that the government faces a big challenge to please both the wider public and the business community,” said Cripps managing partner Gavin Tyler.
“While curbing migration into the UK may be a popular issue with the general electorate, we do have to recognise there are numerous businesses, particularly in sectors such as agriculture, food and drink, and construction that depend quite heavily on EU workers. Technology and related industries also rely on being able to attract top talent from outside the UK.”
There was a range of opinion on the future trading model the UK should adopt, with 31 per cent favouring a relationship based on World Trade Organisation rules; 29 per cent the Norwegian model; 13 per cent a mirror of the arrangements Canada has with the EU; and 21 per cent a new British model incorporating aspects of other existing models. These include free trade agreements with Commonwealth countries; single market access and acceptance of free movement of labour but not residents; and negotiating a new EU template altogether.
Gavin continued: “While these are uncertain times we do need to remember nothing is going to change for several years and, as with any change, there will be both challenges and opportunities for businesses as we navigate our exit from the EU.
“Reassuringly, speaking to our clients, their priorities remain the same now as before the referendum, focusing on their business strategy, productivity and skills, and maintaining a strong balance sheet. We have also seen our international clients keen to continue to do transactions in the UK.”
With one of the largest corporate teams in the South East, Cripps advises a broad range of clients, from entrepreneurs and family businesses to listed and international companies. Its corporate team is consistently ranked in the top band of regional law firms in legal directories, with a large proportion of individuals being listed as leaders in their field.
For more details on the survey result and general Brexit updates, sign up to Cripps’ dedicated Brexit blog at www.cripps.co.uk/blog/brexit
The firm’s Tunbridge Wells offices will shortly move into new, purpose built premises, the largest office building to have been built in the town for more than 25 years. With over 350 staff, Cripps is one of the town’s largest employers.
Cripps has offices in Tunbridge Wells, Kings Hill, London and Sandwich.