Britain’s finance leaders are getting gloomier about Brexit, ICAS survey reveals

Brexit insight London

11 July 2017

Britain’s finance leaders are getting gloomier about Brexit.  That’s the key finding of a UK-wide survey of top finance professionals, by the Chartered Accountancy body ICAS.

The ICAS Brexit Tracker, in association with leading law firm Brodies LLP, shows that the membership’s views of the effect so far, and the likely outcome once the UK leaves the EU, have become slightly more negative in the past three months, since Article 50 was triggered.

The BREXIT Tracker

The ICAS Brexit Tracker for Summer 2017 is the second in a series of quarterly online polls assessing the degree of optimism (or otherwise) of ICAS members regarding the impact of the Brexit process so far, and the likely impact of the UK leaving the EU. The tracker charts a range of responses from -50 (very negative) to +50 (very positive).

This, the second survey in the series, was carried out through May/June this year, including much of the general election campaign (but not the result of the election), and is based on responses from more than 530 chartered accountants (CAs) across a range of sectors.

On average the sentiment regarding the experience of Brexit so far was slightly more negative (-9, compared with -6 in March, a fall of 7% in optimism). Expectations regarding the likely impact of Brexit on the individual and their organisation, once the UK has left the EU, were also more gloomy (-14, compared with -10 in March, a fall of 10% in optimism); and for the likely impact on the UK economy as a whole, even more so (-16 compared with -13 in March, a fall of 13% in optimism)

Mike McKeon CA, chair of the ICAS Brexit Advisory Group, said: “The survey reflects the fact that time is running on and we are still not getting any clear view of what the outcome of the Brexit negotiations will be. Governments have still not provided a detailed picture, so there is uncertainty.”

In terms of the outcome of the Brexit talks:

  • the proportion of respondents who would prefer to see the UK remain as a participant in the EU Single Market after Brexit was up to 60% (March: 52%);
  • 33% would prefer to see the UK outside the Single Market, but with a trade deal (March: 41%); and
  • 3% would prefer the UK to be outside the Single Market, with no trade deal (no change since March).

The implications for expats

The survey asked: “how are your colleagues reacting to Brexit”, focusing on those who are either UK nationals elsewhere in the EU, or EU nationals in the UK.

Colleagues who are EU nationals, in the UK

Considering relocation                           36%

Considering UK citizenship                    32%

Seeking legal advice (self funded)          11%

Seeking legal advice (employer funded) 10%

Colleagues who are UK nationals, in the rest of the EU

Considering relocation                           45%

Considering EU citizenship                    40%

Seeking legal advice (self funded)          13%

Seeking legal advice (employer funded) 13%

The figures suggest that uncertainty is already sparking action, with more than four in 10 reporting that some of their British colleagues based elsewhere in the EU are considering relocation.

Christine O’Neill, chairman of Brodies LLP, said: “We have known from the day after the referendum result that citizenship rights, including rights to work and live in the UK and in the rest of the EU, would be an area of very real concern for businesses and of course for affected individuals and their families. Lack of political agreement on the position of EU nationals in the UK (and vice versa) appears to be leading individuals to take action to make their own situation more secure.”

A two-track approach to BREXIT?

The survey also asked ICAS members whether different parts of the UK should apply different policies as regards trade (relationship with the EU Single Market) and migration. The answer was a definitive “no” for both trade (70%) and migration (68%).

There was no significant difference between members in Scotland (55% of responses) and elsewhere.

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