East Midlands businesses in favour of remaining in EU – but most unprepared for Brexit, says Grant Thornton

Chris Frostwick, practice leader and partner at Grant Thornton’s East Midlands regional office in Leicester

East Midlands’ businesses are largely in favour of remaining in the EU but few have considered the practical implications of a ‘Brexit’ and are unprepared for a potential vote to leave, according to new research from business and financial advisers Grant Thornton UK LLP.

The survey of UK business leaders, including a proportion from the East Midlands, was carried out following the package of reforms negotiated by the Prime Minister and found 65% of businesses would vote to remain in the EU.

The response was similar across firms of all sizes with 60% of small businesses, 61% of medium sized businesses and 76% of large businesses favouring staying in the EU.

When asked about the effect of a possible Brexit, almost half (48%) of respondents believed it would have a negative impact on growth and jobs in their business; 38% thought there would be no change; 10% believed a Brexit would have a positive impact; and 7% remained unsure.

Grant Thornton’s survey also found the majority of companies are largely unprepared for a possible vote to leave the EU with almost two thirds (65%) stating they have done no planning at all.

Chris Frostwick, partner and practice leader of Grant Thornton’s Leicester office, commented: “With the package of reforms now agreed, the date of the referendum firmly set and both sides of the debate campaigning in earnest, organisations need to start considering the scenarios that could play out once the dust settles and the votes are tallied.

“Whilst it’s clear how East Midlands’ business leaders would vote personally, our research shows the majority of local companies would be poorly prepared if the referendum results in a Brexit.

“We recommend local businesses of all sizes carry out an impact assessment for Brexit that considers different scenarios and works through how each might affect the operations of the firm.”

Grant Thornton’s research also found almost half (47%) of respondents felt a vote to leave the EU would make it more difficult to export goods and services or operate in the EU, while 32% said it would hinder their ability to access the skills they need.

Chris Frostwick concludes: “In our role as a ‘critical friend’ to local businesses, we urge them to take action now. Whilst there is a lot of uncertainty about what the UK’s relationship with the EU would be if the referendum results in a ‘leave’ decision, identifying the ‘known unknowns’ that might affect your business is an important step in being prepared.”

Grant Thornton has its East Midlands office in Leicester, where it has approximately 160 staff providing business and financial advice across Corporate and Personal Tax, audit and assurance, employer solutions, corporate finance, and sustainability, to organisations across the East Midlands.