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Uncertainty still rife as Brexit deadline looms, says FTI

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Firms across Europe have let Brexit decision making slip amidst continuing uncertainty, extensive boardroom research by FTI Consulting suggests. Still over half of firms expect a "soft" Brexit, but that optimism is dropping and three quarters of firms have "no deal" contingency in place.

For Brexit in the Boardroom 2.0, published this week, FTI spoke to over 2,000 leaders of large businesses across four major EU economies (France, Germany, Spain and the UK) to understand how their plans for Brexit have evolved, whether their expectations have changed, and what concrete steps they have taken during 2018 to prepare; FTI conducted a similar exercise last December.

Finding highlights include:

  • Timing: Back in December 2017, 75% of firms expected clarity on the UK/EU relationship by June 2018. That deadline came and went. Now only 12% in UK and 20% in Europe believe they have clarity, with 74% expecting they will now get clarity by February 2019.
  • Decision making: Previously 84% of respondents had said that they will make irreversible decisions by September 2018 but only 19% have done so. Now three-quarters (75%) of respondents said they will make irreversible decisions to manage Brexit by February 2019, which is when they expect to now have clarity on the outcome of negotiations.
  • Expectation of 'soft' Brexit: 58% of these large companies believe the UK will continue to have tariff free access to the Single Market after Brexit (but this is down from 65% in December 2017), with that belief being 68% for UK firms (down from 75%) Despite this, 83% of businesses expect to increase or maintain turnover in the year following Brexit.
  • 'No deal' plans: 76% of businesses say they have a 'no deal' contingency plan prepared or in place.
  • Impact on UK R&D: 63% of UK firms and 61% of European ones said they planned to move R&D facilities from the UK to the Continent as a result of Brexit, with UK financial services firms the most likely to move (76%).
  • Impact on UK Jobs: Two-thirds (69%) of respondents said they were concerned about job losses post-Brexit, with that figure rising to 80% for UK firms.
  • Brexit teams: 79% of firms said they have established a dedicated Brexit team, with most saying they were 'fully' prepared for Brexit, but an important minority of 42% saying they were only 'partly' prepared.

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