Finance chiefs downbeat in wake of Brexit vote

Economic confidence has suffered a body blow following the decision to quit the European Union, according to a new survey of Britain's finance bosses.

Icas chief executive Anton Colella said the freedom to hire people across Europe must be a 'crucial' part of Brexit talks. Picture: Contributed

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.

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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.

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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.