LONDON — Two-thirds of business leaders believe the UK is “likely” to be heading for a no-deal Brexit, according to a new survey which reflects a growing concern that Theresa May will fail to strike a deal in Brussels by March next year.
A Survation poll of CEOs, founders, and directors found that 66% believe that Britain is “likely” to leave the EU without a deal, with 25% of that cohort believing that it is “very likely.”
Just 27% of those polled said it was unlikely the UK would leave the EU without a deal, while 8% didn’t know.
The poll, which was commissioned by Maritime UK, also found that nearly half of businesses have done no preparation or almost no preparation to prepare for the possibility of leaving without a deal. Twenty-one percent of businesses have done “very little” preparation while 29% have carried out no preparation.
A separate poll of 800 business leaders carried out for the Institute of Directors also indicated that large numbers of businesses are failing to prepare for Brexit at all.
Nearly half (49%) said they did “not anticipate drawing up nor implementing any contingency plans for Brexit”, while just 8% said they had already implemented Brexit plans.
The UK still expects to enter a 20-month Brexit transition period from March next year, but a number of issues such as the Irish border remain unsolved which have led to increasing fears that both sides could fail to strike a deal.
Extending Article 50?
Maritime UK, which represents the country’s shipping, ports, and marine services, said the government should seek to extend Article 50 — the two-year EU exit process — if negotiators fail to strike a deal by October.
“If we fail to agree a deal by October, it is in the interest of both the UK and EU to extend the Article 50 process,” said David Dingle, chairman of Maritime UK.
“Failing to secure a deal will mean delays and disruption at ports like Dover, Holyhead and Portsmouth, but equally at EU ports including Zeebrugge, Calais and Dublin,” he said.
EU officials have privately indicated that they would consider extending Article 50 if there was a “major shift” in British politics. That could include a general election, a change in prime minister, or a second Brexit referendum.