In July 2016, the UK’s decision to leave the EU revealed a country divided with 52% in favour of a split and 48% voting to remain. Whichever camp you fell into, the Brexit vote will dramatically change our relations with Europe.
While the politicians battle it out to secure a deal, we’ve taken a temperature check to provide a non-biased account of what business owners and professionals across the country think about this divisive topic.
With just over a year to go until Brexit is implemented, we issued an anonymous survey via social media and email that was open to anyone across the country. We received almost 100 responses, mainly from those working in professional services and business owners operating predominantly from the north-west.
As we know, the Brexit vote was strongly impacted by a number of factors including voters’ region, age and level of education. So, before we take a look at the results, it’s worth putting them into context to help explain the outcome of our survey:
- London was the only English region to vote in favour of remaining with 60% voting to stay in the EU.
- The North West voted to leave by a margin of 53.7% to 46.3%, a slightly stronger lean towards leave than the result of the entire UK.
- Over-65s were more than twice as likely to vote leave than under-25s.
Our survey was sent out to people of working age who, for the most part would likely be under 65. Many of the respondents work in professional services indicating that they are more likely to have a degree and the majority of respondents are from the north-west.
The Survey Results
Given this context and the demographics of our survey respondents, you might expect that these individuals would have voted strongly in favour of remaining in the EU. And that’s what the first question in our survey revealed with 71% of respondents having voted remain, 19% leave and 10% who didn’t vote at all.
But a lot has happened since the vote and we wanted to find out whether there had been any shift in attitudes since the referendum and whether the negotiations have had any impact on business. Our results are set out here.
How Do People Feel About Brexit Now?
The results of our survey found a slight but noticeable change in attitudes around whether the UK was right or wrong to vote leave.
Given the strong representation of remain voters in the survey results, it’s not surprising that respondents are still strongly inclined to believe we were wrong to leave the EU. What our results show is that those who didn’t vote in the referendum feel that leaving is the wrong thing to do.
This has resulted in an increase in the percentage believing it’s wrong to leave to 77% (from 70% who voted leave in the referendum). Which leaves 18% of respondents who believe that leaving the EU is the right thing to do and 4% who don’t care either way.
What Should the Government Do Now?
Whether you’re a confirmed eurosceptic or a resolved remainer, most agree that there wasn’t enough information to make a fully-informed decision. However, since the vote took place, more answers are available giving rise to heated debate about the best course of action for the country.
Our survey found that, in true Brexit style, people are divided about what the government should do next:
- 33% believe we should abandon Brexit
- 28% want the offer of a second referendum
- 25% want the government to consider leaving on our current terms
This leaves just 9% saying that they would like the government to reconsider terms and seek a softer Brexit and 5% who are unsure.
Brexit’s Impact on Business
What’s the Impact on Business Planning and Recruitment?
With the uncertainty of the final deal hanging in the balance, businesses are split over whether Brexit is preventing them from making plans for the future.
A small majority of 54% believe that uncertainty over Brexit is not impacting budget plans while 46% feel hindered. However, in terms of recruitment, businesses are more bullish: 58% say that Brexit is not affecting hiring and just 26% say they’re hesitant to recruit. At the opposite ends of the spectrum, 7% are making staff cuts and 10% have an increased need for recruitment.
While the impact of Brexit on EU immigration won’t be known until negotiations are concluded, businesses are positive about the potential effect of any EU immigration restrictions. Just 35% say EU immigration restrictions would cause a negative effect on operations and 59% say there would be no impact at all.
The reason for this nonchalance? A recent government report shows that only 5% of the north-west’s workforce – around 175,000 people – comes from EU countries. Of this number, just 15% work in professional roles equating to about 1,300 EU individuals in professional roles.
Divide this by the number of professional jobs in the north-west and it’s easy to see why so few businesses are concerned about the impact of immigration.
Government data shows similar numbers across other UK regions, except London where EU nationals account for 17% of workforce. Which may be part of the reason for London’s original remain vote.
What Are Business’ Priorities Over the Next 12 Months?
Our survey respondents said that the main focus for the next year is to increase new products and services with others focussed on increasing cash flow and reducing costs.
For those seeking to obtain finance or credit, there has been little change in the financial landscape for 44% of respondents while 17% have found it harder to secure finance.
In true British style, most businesses are keeping calm and carrying on with one third (33%) delaying decisions over Brexit and 67% continuing to make calls and move forwards.
Will the Economy Get Better or Worse?
For this section of the survey, we asked respondents to look into their crystal balls and predict the impact of Brexit on the future of the UK economy.
In response to the statement, ‘the overall economy will get worse in the short timer’, 71% agreed, 19% were unsure and 10% disagreed.
Looking ahead, a slim majority (54%) believe that the UK economy would also be impacted in the long term. However, 30% are more positive about the UK’s long-term prospects believing that the economy will recover quickly with the remaining respondents unsure.
Given that the majority of those who completed our survey were remainers, it perhaps isn’t surprising that they believe the overall economic outlook to be less than rosy.
And, when it comes to goods and services, this picture becomes even more cheerless for our respondents with 71% indicating that they think costs will go up. Just 16.5% believe there will be no impact and the same percentage were unsure.
How Will Brexit Impact British Companies and Jobs?
Survey respondents were fairly gloomy on the outlook for British companies with 54% believing that UK businesses will fare worse following the UK’s split from Europe and 69% of the opinion that we will have restricted access to EU services.
Views about the security of individuals’ jobs are split fairly evenly: 36% think Brexit will make their job less secure and 38% believe there will be no impact. Of all our survey questions, this one carries the highest level of uncertainty with 26% of respondents unsure about the future of their job.
While no-one knows exactly where the Brexit negotiations will end up, there can be no doubt that businesses are feeling the effects in terms of uncertainty. Uncertainty about the economic impact, both short and long term, about individuals’ jobs and the cost of goods and services.
What does this mean for employers? In the past, research has shown that job insecurity can lead to resignations and the potential for more recruitment. If your firm is in a sector that’s more likely to be impacted by Brexit or if you have a number of EU employees, it could be time to review your recruitment plans to ensure you’re ready to react if needed.