The question to stay or leave the UK will be brought before voters this Thursday. Proponents and opponents of the UK’s continued presence within the EU have been lining up their arguments, some good and some downright fraudulent. A new study finds that few businesses in the UK are well informed about the potential consequences of the referendum, while 39% state that they are uninformed. Key questions surround access to the EU market, international markets and legislative changes.
The potential consequences of leaving the EU, in the case voters would steer the country in that direction, are not well understood by UK businesses according to a new study from Grant Thornton. The firm's International Business Report (IBR) finds that only 15% of UK businesses are ‘well informed’ about the consequence of the referendum on their business, 39% felt uninformed, with the remainder (46%) stating that they were 'somewhat' informed. Businesses, the report finds, are in need of information about the potential short-term impact resulting from a leave vote, at 46% of respondents, the consequences of a vote to leave on exports of goods and services, at 36% of respondents, and the impact on tax, at 35% of respondents.
Businesses were also asked about the priorities for a potential post-referendum government, in the event of a leave vote. To them, the top priority is a negotiation of trade deals within the EU single market (68%) in order to support business growth, while international trade deals are also found to be important moves for the government, although less important than with EU states, at 58%. Reviewing UK employment legislation comes in third, cited by 51% of respondents, while making agreements on rules for governing competition, state-aid and anti-trust regulation was also identified as a priority for the government (50%).
Businesses also considered the situation in which the vote would go to the status quo, and the UK remains in the EU, in which case they find that government effort should be directed to boosting productivity (at 70% of respondents), followed by pressing for additional reforms within the EU that support growth (cited by 63%). Few businesses (24%), believes that the government should sit on its hands in a bid to promote stability.
The consultancy firm also polled its own people regarding whether they believe it is in the interest of Grant Thornton’s UK stated purpose, of creating a more vibrant UK economy, to stay in the EU – seventy percent of respondents say that staying in the EU provides the firm with a better opportunity to support the development of a more vibrant economy in the UK.
“With the outcome remaining highly unpredictable, we hope that whichever way the vote goes, the government will prioritise the concerns of business and focus on areas which enable a more dynamic, vibrant UK economy to emerge over the coming years," comments Robert Hannah, Chief Operating Officer at Grant Thornton UK. "Whilst the debate so far has been highly emotive and passionate on both sides of the fence, the research suggests there's been a dearth of qualified information on what the impact of a decision to leave would have on UK businesses. This then raises an interesting question around preparedness and planning, which we know from earlier research that very few businesses had done. It also suggests that the voting public may be led more by their hearts when entering the polling booths on the 23rd.”