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UK businesses leaning towards second Brexit vote

Poll comes just ahead of May’s ‘plan B’ Brexit announcement

Brexit

An Institute of Directors (IoD) survey has revealed that 45% of UK business leaders favour a second vote on Brexit, more than for any other course of action.

The poll comes as Prime Minister Theresa May is due to deliver her ‘plan B’ for Brexit after the thumping, 230-vote defeat of the long-negotiated withdrawal agreement last week, and suggests a change in position for UK industry which has thus far pushed for a deal and orderly exit.

All told, 29% of those polled by the IoD would prefer changes to the withdrawal agreement that could win the support of parliament, with almost one in four (23%) in favour of a no-deal Brexit.

Meanwhile, an Observer/Opinium survey ahead of the weekend found that 28% of the public backed a no-deal Brexit, with a second vote backed by 24%. Among those favouring a second referendum, 45% would vote to remain in the EU.

May said last week she would focus on cross-party talks to try to get a consensus on the way forward, although Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has refused to participate unless May first rules out the option of no-deal – which May says is an “impossible condition”.

The BBC claims this morning that the government’s efforts are focused mainly on trying to win approval among Conservative MPs for a modified version of the same deal, with concessions sought from the EU on the controversial Northern Ireland backstop that will be implemented if a future trade deal can’t be established to avoid a hard border with the Republic.

It would see Northern Ireland staying aligned to some rules of the EU market, separating it in regulatory terms from the UK as a whole.

If Parliament can’t approve a withdrawal agreement, the UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March without a deal or transition period, which will please neither the IoD majority or May’s business minister Richard Harrington, who has said he will resign from government if May allows a no-deal Brexit to take place.

May is resisting any moves to extend the Article 50 process under which the UK is due to leave the EU, and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has indicated that it would also prefer to stick to the current schedule to avoid further uncertainty.

CBI director general Josh Hardie said: “If there were to be an extension [of Article 50], there needs to be a change in position [at Westminster] so that it can deliver for the UK.”

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The IoD's Stephen Martin

Meanwhile, Stephen Martin, director general of the IoD, said that “for each passing day without clarity either about the government’s intended next moves or comprehensive information about day one plans for no-deal, it becomes more and more difficult for businesses to be ready”.

The IoD survey also suggests that when it comes to changes to the withdrawal deal, a majority (55%) would prefer to see closer alignment with the EU – which might include, for example, staying in the customs union – while 31% said they would like to see changes to the Irish backstop.

“Businesses are deeply frustrated [that] our political leaders seem intent on wasting the little time remaining before 29 March trying to fulfil political objectives, rather than coming together to find a way forward,” said Martin.

“As a result, many business leaders now seem willing to contemplate other solutions to break the impasse, including a referendum.”

Article by
Phil Taylor

21st January 2019

From: Sales, Healthcare

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