Ed Dwan

65% of North West business leaders believe the government is not negotiating the best Brexit deal for business

  • With only 100 days to Brexit, 79% say they have no clear idea of what the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU will look like
  • 55% are less optimistic about their future than at the start of negotiations

With only 100 days to go until the UK leaves the European Union, research from accountants and business advisors BDO LLP has shown that the overwhelming majority (65%) of North West business leaders think the government is not doing enough to prioritise the needs of businesses during its negotiations with the EU.

This dim view of the government’s negotiations may be in part due to the lack of clarity that businesses have received, with 79% of North West business leaders suggesting they don’t have a clear picture of the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU, with no end to the confusion currently in sight.

Unsurprisingly, this confusion has led to significant pessimism amongst the business community, with 55% feeling less optimistic about leaving the EU than they were when the referendum result was announced, whilst 50% believe Brexit will have a negative impact on their growth in the next 12 months.

However, sentiment in the North West is marginally more positive than the national picture, with 17% of North West business leaders surveyed anticipating a positive impact on growth in comparison to the national average of 14%. Furthermore, 33% of North West firms anticipate a negligible impact on their business, compared to 25% nationally.

However, when it comes to International expansion, the picture is gloomier in the North West - nationally, 30% of respondents reported an increased likelihood of expanding internationally since the UK elected to leave the UK, compared to just 5% in the North West. 15% are more likely to expand internationally, although for 70% of North West firms surveyed, international expansion was never part of their plan.

Commenting on the research findings, Ed Dwan, partner at BDO LLP, said:

“Given the confusion and ongoing uncertainty, it’s of little surprise that business leaders feel pessimistic about the future post-Brexit. The government must prioritise business in its negotiations, while giving due attention to vital domestic policies that will ease pressure and boost confidence, beginning with policies to help address the UK’s skills gap. We recently published our own five-point policy plan which we believe will help to create a ‘New Economy’ to build the right environment for UK businesses to thrive post-Brexit.

“After Brexit, it’s likely that we’ll see a diminishing talent pool, so one of our key messages to the government asks them to commit to reinstating the two-year post-study work visa to help address the manufacturing and tech skills shortage. The skills gap is a reality that has already begun to bite, so it’s vital that action is taken immediately. We also believe that apprenticeship places should carry more weighting by Ofsted to encourage students who may be considering alternative routes than university.

“It’s heartening to see that optimism is still alive in the North West, with business leaders determined to make a success of Brexit despite the obvious challenges it brings - it’s time that the government rewarded their innovation and entrepreneurial spirit with policies to create the best possible environment to succeed post-Brexit.”

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