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IoD snap survey post-withdrawal deal vote

19 Jan 2019

flagsA survey of 1,200  business leaders from the across the UK, conducted in a week of parliamentary pandemonium, showed little faith that politicians could put aside their differences and come up with a Brexit withdrawal agreement that would bring the country together. When asked about preferences for next steps after the Government’s deal was rebuffed by MPs

  • Nearly 80% of company directors rejected the option of no deal. This tallies with previous IoD polling from November which showed two-thirds (66%) of members thought no deal would be negative for their business.
  • There was no majority for a single course, with 45% of members opting for some form of referendum to break the impasse, while 29% would prefer that the Withdrawal Agreement could be changed so that it could secure parliamentary support. When asked in November, assuming the UK does leave the EU in March as the law currently states, 72% said having a withdrawal agreement in place was important to business.
  • A General Election was the least favoured potential next step, only chosen by 2% of business leaders.

There was evidence in the survey that IoD members felt the rejection of the withdrawal deal at the first time of asking had made no deal more likely. Only a fifth business leaders surveyed said they had already activated contingency plans, while a further 18% have plans waiting to be implemented. Of all those who said they would be planning for Brexit, over half (54%) said that they were more likely to activate those plans in the near future as a result of the vote.

Stephen Martin, Director General of the Institute of Directors, said:

“At this moment of national crisis, the ability to put what really matters first seems to have abandoned us. It feels like we are being drawn involuntarily towards no deal like a moth to a flame, knowing we will be burnt but seemingly unable to stop it. Businesses are deeply frustrated 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.

“As a result, many business leaders now seem willing to contemplate other solutions to break the impasse, including a referendum. This route is fraught with uncertainty of its own, and the fact that some business leaders are prepared to consider it reflects poorly on the efforts of Parliament to bring the country together.

“The reason that a large majority of business leaders oppose no deal in a little over two months is simply that it’s an unnecessary self-inflicted wound. Companies would stand a better chance of being ready for a different relationship with the EU if day one arrangements and processes were already known to businesses, and they had time to adjust. Unfortunately that is not the case, and there is little time left to overhaul their own operating procedures. What they can’t handle is to have everything thrown up in the air in a matter of a few weeks and be told to get on with it.

“Business is not the only voice that should get a hearing, but companies don’t stand apart from society, they are an integral part of it. What happens over the next few weeks will affect supply chains, logistics and investment decisions but these aren’t abstract concepts – they have an impact on real businesses, large and small, real jobs, real people. The solution is far from clear, there is disagreement even among businesses on the way forward. The only place an alternative to no deal on 29 March can be found is Parliament. The country is watching.”   

Full survey results:

1200 respondents, conducted between 17-19 January 2019

In the last few days MPs have voted against the withdrawal deal the Government negotiated with the EU but voted for the Government in a confidence motion. Thinking of the interests of your organisation, what would you like to happen now?

The withdrawal deal changed so that it can secure a majority in the House of Commons


A second referendum/referendum on the withdrawal deal


A General Election


Leave the EU without a withdrawal deal on 29 March ('no deal')


Don't know


Of those that supported changing the deal to secure a majority in the House of Commons (349 respondents) –

You have said that you want to see changes to the withdrawal deal. What form of change is most important to your organisation?

Changes to the Irish border backstop (which comes into effect if the UK & EU don't reach agreement on our future relationship by end of the transition period)


A commitment to close future economic alignment with the EU (minimising trade friction), which is not present in the current withdrawal deal


Don't know




What is your organisation’s approach to Brexit contingency planning?

We have already activated our Brexit contingency plans


We have drawn up, but not yet implemented, our contingency plans


We have not yet drawn up contingency plans but intend to


We do not yet have any intention to draw up contingency plans - we will only make changes once the new relationship between the UK & the EU is completely clear


We do not have any intention to draw up contingency plans - we do not expect Brexit to affect us


Don't know


Of those that said they would be planning for Brexit (266 respondents) –

Has the rejection of the Government’s withdrawal deal by MPs made you more likely to activate contingency plans in the near future?





Don't know


Previous survey results:

816 respondents, conducted between 16-19 November 2018

Do you think that a 'no-deal' Brexit (in which the UK leaves the EU without a withdrawal agreement) would be positive or negative for your (primary) organisation?  

Very positive


Somewhat positive


Neither positive nor negative


Somewhat negative


Very negative


Don't know


Considering the impact on your (primary) organisation, how important or unimportant is it that a withdrawal agreement is ratified before the UK leaves the EU in March 2019? 

Very important


Somewhat important


Not very important


Not important at all


Don't know


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