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UK Finance Leaders Vote to Stay in EU or Very Close to It

UK Finance Leaders Vote to Stay in EU or Very Close to It
Finance leaders from over 200 UK-based companies, including household names like Standard Chartered, Rolls Royce, TSB, Balfour Beatty, British Airways and Centrica, last night sent a strong message that staying in the European Union or very close to it would be best for their businesses.

Polled at a dinner in London hosted by Odgers Berndtson, a leading global executive search firm, 42% said the preferred outcome of the Brexit negotiations for their companies would be to remain in the EU. A further half were split between those (27%) preferring to remain in the customs union or join the EEA, and others (23%) choosing some other transitional arrangement.

Their verdict, delivered just ahead of today’s Cabinet meeting to consider the details of a proposed deal on Brexit, reinforces the assessment of UK chairs and chief executives two months ago. Asked the same question at the Odgers Berndtson CEO dinner in September 55% of CEOs then said they’d like to reverse Brexit with a further 24% preferring to remain in the customs union or EEA.

When asked for their take on the UK economic outlook, 47% of finance chiefs said last night they were not very confident with a further 9% “terrified”, showing a darkening of the mood. When Odgers Berndtson asked chief executives and chairs the same question in September, over half (54%) were not very confident about the economic outlook, but only 2.8% had said they were terrified.

“Business leaders think some deal is better than none and, whilst gloomy about the economic outlook they want clarity and some kind of agreement,” said Mark Freebairn, Head of the CFO Practice at Odgers Berndtson, after last night’s poll. “The strongest message is that, with more clarity, they will invest in the UK.”

Almost three-quarters of finance chiefs polled (75%) said they planned to speed up investment in automation to maintain the UK growth of their businesses, with 58% saying they wanted clarity before confirming more precise plans.

“This suggests the UK could, almost as a result of slower economic growth and Brexit, could really accelerate its shift towards greater automation, which promises to have a major impact on the outlook for both employment and leadership,” Mr Freebairn added.