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Survey reveals business pessimism over Brexit talks

PUBLISHED: 08:58 07 February 2018 | UPDATED: 08:58 07 February 2018

Prime minister Theresa May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. Picture: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Prime minister Theresa May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. Picture: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

East Anglian businesses feel less optimistic about the progress of the government’s Brexit negotiations than firms in other parts of the country, according to an industry survey.

The study was conducted by HLB International, a network of independent accounting firms and business advisers, whose East Anglian representative is Lovewell Blake.

Of the 169 companies surveyed in East Anglia, only 11% said they believe Brexit talks are “going well” for the UK – compared to a national figure of 25% – while 55% thought the negotiations were “going badly”.

But the survey also showed a greater degree of uncertainty in the region, with more than 34% of East Anglian companies saying they were “not sure” about the progress, compared to 13% nationally.

Other findings in East Anglia include:

• One in three regional business leaders said Theresa May’s government was handling the Brexit negotiations well, compared to one in four across the rest of the country.

• More than twice as many believed their business will be worse off as a result of leaving the EU, as opposed to being be better off (46% versus 21%).

• 59% want the UK to stay in the customs union and/or single market after Brexit, while almost one in five say the UK should not pay a so-called “divorce bill’ on leaving the EU.

• Twice as many businesses believe that Michel Barnier will negotiate a better deal than David Davis (44% versus 22%).

• More than half of East Anglian businesses (52%) think the EU is behaving unfairly in the negotiations.

• 58% of regional businesses think the UK economy will do worse over the next ten years as a result of Brexit, while 34% believe it will fare better.

• More than twice as many businesspeople voted Remain than Leave in East Anglia (67% versus 32%).

Paul Briddon, senior partner at Lovewell Blake, said the survey is a “fascinating and comprehensive picture” on how businesses view the progress of Brexit.

“Five times as many of our local businesses think the process is going badly as judge it to be going well,” he said. “Whatever your views on whether we should be leaving the EU or remaining a member, that pessimism can only be damaging to business confidence.

“As we move into the second phase of Brexit negotiations, the message from regional business people seems to be clear: the government needs to up its game to make sure the UK comes out of the negotiations with a deal which will safeguard jobs and our region’s economy.”

SURVEY OPINIONS

Comments submitted to the survey reveal the range of Brexit opinions among East Anglia’s business community. Here are just a few of them:

“We should stop focusing on short-term problems and look at the long-term.”

“The country should get behind Brexit now it has voted, as our difference and blame-gaming in the press is feeding Europe into hard negotiations.”

“The level of incompetence shown by our government is staggering.”

“It will take at least a generation to recover, whatever the eventual outcome.”

“It is difficult to see that the economy and life in the UK are going to be better after the process is completed.”

“The next ten years will leave the UK worse off for leaving the EU. But after that it is not impossible that we will be better off.”

“We need a gradual transition, which may cost us financially in the short-term, and will prevent a ‘clean break’ initially.”

“Get on with it, 2019 is not far away.”

“The EU is far from ideal, but this mass suicide bid was ill-informed.”

“Lots of companies set up in this country because we are in the EU; when we leave so will lots of them.”

“I voted to remain for no other reason than to get the terms we wanted and needed would be nigh on impossible.”

“We have started down a road and that needs to have a definitive end.”

“Our trading future is bleak.”

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