New research from Grant Thornton’s International Business Report (IBR) reveals that only 15% of UK business leaders feel 'well informed' about the potential impact the EU referendum could have on their business. A further 39% felt uninformed, with the remainder (46%) suggesting they were 'somewhat' informed.
Those surveyed pointed to the need for more information around: the short-term impact of a vote to leave (46%), the impact on imports and exports of goods and services (36%) and the impact on tax (35%), amongst other areas.
The research also looked at policy priorities post-referendum. In the event of a vote in favour of leaving the EU, business leaders suggest the government should prioritise the negotiation of trade deals within the EU single market (68%) in order to support business growth. The negotiation of trade deals outside of the EU was also recognised as a top priority for government (58%); along with a review of UK employment legislation based on EU rules (51%). Reaching agreement on rules governing competition, state-aid and anti-trust regulation was also identified as a priority for government (50%).
Should the outcome of the referendum be to remain in the EU, businesses suggest the government should focus on measures to raise UK productivity (70%) and press for further EU reform (63%) to support growth. Less than a quarter (24%) suggested the government should do as little as possible and aim for stability.
Robert Hannah, chief operating officer at Grant Thornton UK LLP, commented:
"Whilst the debate so far has been highly emotive and passionate on both sides of the fence, the research suggests there's been a dearth of qualified information on what the impact of a decision to leave would have on UK businesses. This then raises an interesting question around preparedness and planning, which we know from earlier research that very few businesses had done. It also suggests that the voting public may be led more by their hearts when entering the polling booths on the 23rd.
"As a firm, our priority to date has been to help inform the debate in a balanced way, enabling our clients and people to assess the business impact of what many are considering to be the most important vote of a generation. With the outcome remaining highly unpredictable, we hope that whichever way the vote goes, the government will prioritise the concerns of business and focus on areas which enable a more dynamic, vibrant UK economy to emerge over the coming years."
The research follows an internal poll of Grant Thornton UK people, which suggests that whilst the vast majority feel informed (30% 'well informed' and 60% 'somewhat informed'), a number of questions remain unanswered. The mechanics of leaving / what happens next and the overall economic arguments on either side emerge as areas where people felt they would like more information.
Respondents to this survey also suggested that in order for Grant Thornton to achieve its stated purpose of creating a more vibrant UK economy, this would be best achieved by remaining inside the European Union (c.70%).
Robert Hannah continued: "As a shared enterprise, our people's views on major political and economic moments are critical in shaping who we are as an organisation and consequently, how we work with our clients and other stakeholders in helping shape a vibrant economy. We hope that by helping inform the debate over the past 18 months, both within our organisation and externally, we have helped equip people to make an informed decision on the 23rd."