Finance professionals gear up for no-deal Brexit

Brexit Insights
By CA Today

7 March 2019

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of finance professionals believe that a no-deal Brexit is a “very” or “quite” likely outcome, the findings come from ICAS' latest Brexit Tracker Survey in association with Brodies LLP.

Just over half (56%) of finance professionals said that their organisation is prepared for a no-deal Brexit.

Only around one in three believe, however, that the UK will formally leave the European Union on the appointed date, 29 March.

Majority of business prepared for no-deal Brexit

Of those polled, 12% said their organisation is “very prepared” for a no-deal Brexit and 44% “quite prepared”; 26% felt “quite unprepared” and 8% “very unprepared” (the balance did not know or preferred not to say).

ICAS Chief Executive Bruce Cartwright CA said: “ICAS members are working hard to ensure that their organisations are ready for whatever transpires, and we will be doing everything we can to help them in this.”

“Our major concern, however, is that the clock is ticking down to 29 March and although the UK Government is publishing more guidance there is very little time left to implement it.”

Even among those likely to be affected by specific issues arising from a no-deal Brexit the level of perceived readiness is low:

  • Only 32% of organisations employing EU nationals were positive that management had explained the requirements to register for residence.
  • Only 49% of those expecting to travel to the Schengen zone (for work or otherwise) were aware of the travel rules that might apply following a no-deal Brexit.
  • Only 46% of those with contracts that might be affected by a no-deal Brexit had reviewed those contracts.
  • 22% of exporters that might require an Economic Operator Registration and Identification Scheme number were still in the process of applying for one and 25% had not even started the process.

Mixed expectations about Brexit day

Looking ahead to when Brexit might happen, however, only around one in three (32%) believe the UK will formally leave the EU on 29 March, while 41% believe it will be later this year. Just over one in 10 (11%) believe the Brexit decision will be reversed.

The survey also found a shift in expectations as to what the ultimate outcome of the Brexit process will bring (Autumn 2018 results in brackets):

UK in Single Market5%(6%)
UK in Customs Union (but not Single Market)24%(29%)
A UK/EU Free trade agreement32%(27%)
No Free Trade Agreement27%(25%)
Don’t know12%(14%)

Business more optimistic about negotiated Brexit

The Brexit Tracker, which measures optimism/pessimism on a sliding scale where +50 represents “very positive” and -50 “very negative” shows that ICAS members are less pessimistic regarding the impact of a negotiated Brexit.

The “expected impact” on the respondent’s organisation is now rated at only -6 (the most “positive” yet in the Tracker (Autumn 2018: -13). The expected impact for the UK economy as a whole is -11 (Autumn 2018: -22).

The difference between the polls may be partly explained by the fact that, this time, the question referred to a “negotiated Brexit” to distinguish it from a disorderly or “no-deal” exit from the EU.

On the UK economy, over the next two years 40% see interest rates increasing, but to less than 1.5%, while 39% see rates increasing to 1.5% or more; 65% expect sterling to fall; and 75% expect inflation to rise.

Christine O’Neill, Chairman of Brodies LLP, commented: “Our clients are increasingly seeking advice on the potential consequences of a ‘no-deal’, investing in contingency planning but hoping that an ‘orderly’ exit can still be achieved.

"We recommend that businesses check their degree of readiness against both of these scenarios.”

ICAS has established a Brexit Advisory Group to understand members’ concerns, represent their views and interests, and assist them in understanding the impact of key issues on themselves and their organisations.

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