The senior business leaders were polled at our annual Chair and CEO dinner in London, addressed by former Chancellor George Osborne.

Their views came soon after the appearance of the first economic impact report of a hard Brexit, published by the Economists for Free Trade (EFT) group. Supported by Brexiteers, it predicts a boost to UK revenues of £80 billion over 15 years.

Clear views

It was clearly a forecast not shared by those who took part in the poll. Almost 57% of Chairs and CEOs were not confident about the medium-term UK economic outlook, with almost 3% describing themselves as “terrified”.

Confidence chart brexit

On the subject of their preferred outcome for the Brexit negotiations, over half wanted to stop Brexit altogether (53%), whilst 41% preferred an interim or transition arrangement.

Preferred outcome brexit chart

Only 1% said a hard Brexit would be good for their business. For the vast majority (75%), there was concern that the UK leaving without a deal would have a significant impact and impose “material disruption and cost” to their businesses.

Outlook brexit chart

“Historic mistake”

In his keynote speech, George Osborne had been equally unequivocal about Brexit.

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

 “Clear warning”

“This poll 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, and host of the evening, concluded.

“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 our 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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