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Only 1% of UK’s top bosses support “hard Brexit”, Odgers Berndtson finds

A hundred top UK business leaders, mostly chairs and chief executives of top FTSE companies including household names like Sainsbury’s, RBS, BT, AON, HSBC, TSB and Dixons Carphone, have delivered a damning verdict on the negative impact of a potential hard or “no deal” Brexit, with only 1% seeing this as positive for their companies.

Polled at a dinner in London on Tuesday 11th September hosted by Odgers Berndtson, and addressed by former Chancellor George Osborne, their collective view came hours after the launch of the first economic impact report of a hard Brexit by the Economists for Free Trade (EFT) group. Supported by Brexiteers, this foresees a boost to UK revenues of £80 billion over 15 years.

However almost 57% of chair and CEOs told Odgers Berndtson they are not confident about the medium term UK economic outlook, with almost 3% describing themselves as “terrified”. When asked by the firm to give their preferred outcome for the Brexit negotiations – with the outlook for their companies in mind – over half wanted to stop it altogether (53%), and 41% preferred an interim or transition arrangement.

Only 1% said a hard Brexit would be positive for their business. The vast majority however, at 75%, said they were concerned or very concerned that the UK leaving without a deal would have a significant impact and impose “material disruption and cost” to their businesses.

“Brexit is, in my view, an historic mistake,” said former Chancellor George Osborne said in a keynote speech to business leaders at the Odgers Berndtson dinner, “And the most likely outcome is the UK entering a semi-permanent transition where the only thing that changes is that we give up the control we currently have.”

Worries over the prospect of a rolling transition and its impact were apparent, with the senior director of a leading bank asking whether, in a rolling transition, there might ever be a chance for jobs transferred elsewhere to return to the UK.

Kit Bingham, head of the board practice at Odgers Berndtson, commented, “This sends a very clear warning from the heads of top UK companies that crashing out of Europe without a deal will come at the price of prosperity and job.

“We’ve now seen the economic projection for a hard Brexit and British business leaders don’t buy it.”

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