A hundred top UK business leaders, mostly chairs and chief executives of FTSE companies have delivered their verdict on economic impacts of Brexit – with over half wanting to call it off.

The senior business leaders were polled at the annual Chair and CEO dinner in London, 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 Chairs 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.

“Historic mistake”

“Brexit is, in my view, a historic mistake,” 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.

“Clear warning”

“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 jobs,” Kit Bingham, Head of the Board Practice at Odgers Berndtson said. “We’ve now seen the economic projection for a hard Brexit and British business leaders don’t buy it.”

As leaders in global executive search, across multiple functions and sectors, Odgers Berndtson has a unique perspective on Brexit that comes from being close to top executives in almost 30 countries. You can find those insights in ‘Brexit, Business Leaders, and Investment’, a major report from Odgers Berndtson.

Download the full report

Kit Bingham

Kit Bingham is a Partner in the Board Practice at Odgers Berndtson, and Head of the Chair & Non-Executive Director Practice. Kit joined after a career in financial journalism and financial public r...

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