Business leaders ‘narrowly support’ Brexit deal

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A small majority of business leaders would like to see the agreement negotiated by Boris Johnson with the EU approved, a snap survey of members by the Institute of Directors indicates. 

When asked “from what you understand of the deal and thinking with the interests of your organisation in mind, do you think that MPs should pass this Brexit deal”, 55% of business leaders said “yes”, 41% answered “no” and 4% did not know.

It was recognised by the IoD that business leaders would hardly have had time to digest the details of Johnson’s deal and the full implications for their organisations but, a spokesman told Personnel Today: “There is a concern around wanting to move on to the second stage of negotiation to determine relationships. The deal feels like a way forward that lowers risk.”

Only 8% of respondents thought that leaving the EU without any deal would be beneficial for their organisation with the vast majority keen on maintaining as close to current arrangements with the EU as possible in terms of trade. The spokesman said: “Our members are two to one in favour of getting alignment to maintain market access.”

A large minority (39%) felt that MPs should reject the agreement, hoping for a further extension beyond 31 October. In the event of such a delay, 42% of all respondents thought there should be a further referendum with 14% being open to another poll. However, 34% were “very negative” about the prospect of this. If there is an extension, leaders were evenly split over the benefits of the current Johnson deal with 43% feeling the time should be used to negotiate a better agreement and 42% still supporting it as it stands.

Jonathan Geldart, director general of the Institute of Directors, said the whole Brexit process had been “frustrating and wearying” and had prevented directors from implementing investment plans. He acknowledged there was no unanimity among business leaders on the path ahead, “but avoiding a disorderly exit at the end of the month comes out clearly as a pressing priority”.

Geldart added: “We have also been listening carefully to the voices of businesses across the UK. There remain legitimate concerns around the changes agreed for Northern Ireland, which are no longer in the form of a backstop but now act as the starting point for its future relationship with the EU. We are pleased a hard border has been avoided. However, there are many more unanswered questions about how this will work. We urge the government to come forward with clear, concrete commitments around ensuring this does not lead to an erosion of the UK’s internal market over time.”

The poll was of 655 business leaders.

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