Confidence in Brexit has dropped dramatically among industry leaders with 71% saying the UK’s exit from the EU has already had a negative impact on their businesses, according to new polling data.
The CGA Fourth Business Confidence Survey has revealed that only 36% of pub, bar and restaurant groups are optimistic about the market when looking towards the next 12 months – a fall of 11% compared to the previous poll, which took place in May.
Since the last poll was carried out Theresa May has faced off a revolt from her own MPs over her Chequers proposal, Brexit minister David Davis has resigned along with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, and minimal progress has been made between UK negotiators and the EU on key details like single market access and the Northern Irish border.
The poll also revealed a soft Brexit, which maintains access to the single market and customs union while facilitating free movement, is the preferred course for the country to take among industry leaders. Out of other potential outcomes a hard Brexit, a no-deal scenario and the Chequers plan all failed to gain more than 10% of support from respondents.
Meanwhile 69% of those polled said they think the nation should vote again on the final deal in a second referendum. The poll is based on responses from more than 130 leading figures from the industry, working at CEO, MD, chairman, board and senior management levels.
The poll also revealed the steps business leaders were taking to prepare for the move: 73% have invested in staff training and retention, while 27% have looked to local food and drink suppliers. Nearly a third of leaders – 31% – still consider their business to be under-prepared, or not prepared at all, for Brexit.
Phil Tate, CEO of CGA, said: “Our Business Leaders’ Survey is the clearest indicator yet of the dramatic impact of Brexit on the hospitality sector. It reveals the huge disruption that the EU referendum has already caused to the costs and confidence of businesses, and the further impacts it is likely to have on staff recruitment and retention, especially in London.
“Our research suggests that the large majority of operators are now pinning their hopes on a ‘soft’ Brexit, or even a second referendum. But while many businesses are moving to mitigate the effects of Britain’s departure from the EU, some are, by their own admission, still not ready for it.”
He added: “Restaurant, pub and bar operators that are sharply focused on meeting consumers’ needs, offer good value for money and are well differentiated from the competition still have plenty of headroom to grow. But the Business Confidence Survey confirms that Brexit is going to bring enormous challenges for the sector into 2019 and beyond.”