The poll of more than 100 finance directors and chief financial officers also found that the freedom to hire EU nationals in a post-Brexit UK is the number one concern.
Nearly half – 45 per cent – of those questioned predict the UK economy will shrink in the next 12 months. A further 41 per cent believe that growth will be “flat or negligible” for the remainder of this year.
Last year, in contrast, more than half the finance chiefs in the survey – commissioned by CA magazine in partnership with law firm DLA Piper – had predicted “modest growth” for the UK. This year, financial bosses of companies with turnover of more than £100 million were the most pessimistic, with 48 per cent predicting the economy to decline again over the coming 12 months.
Anton Colella, chief executive of accountancy body Icas, said: “The UK’s finance leaders have sent a strong and clear message on their priorities to the government’s Brexit negotiating team – British business relies on Europe for its talent pool. The freedom to hire and retain talented people from around Europe must therefore be a crucial part of the government’s Brexit negotiations.”
Uncertainty over Britain’s relationship with the EU post-Brexit is rated as the biggest barrier to growth this year. Nearly one in four firms are considering delaying or cutting investment.