UK firms call for softer Brexit post election

British firms have called for a softer Brexit in the aftermath of the election, ideally with continued membership of the single market and European customs union.

A survey of small businesses was conducted by researchers for Harvard University on behalf of former shadow chancellor Ed Balls and former CEO of Standard Chartered Peter Sands, both now senior fellows at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School, the FT reports.

The report found the vast majority of businesses want to retain membership of the single market and customs union to facilitate trade with the EU and countries with trade agreements with the EU.

“Contrary to much of the media and political commentary, the majority of businesses … were broadly satisfied with current regulatory approaches in their sectors . . . many spoke to the overall quality of EU regulations and rulemaking processes,” the report said.

“British companies are desperate to move beyond the empty rhetoric that ‘Brexit means Brexit’. They are clear that both ‘no deal’ and a ‘bad deal’ would be disastrous for British jobs, investment and growth,” Ed Balls said.

Another survey on business confidence conducted by the Institute of Directors after the election found most of the 628 company leaders feared political instability would be detrimental to their businesses (76 per cent) and the economy (92 per cent).

Meanwhile 86 per cent of businesses highlighted the importance of a transitional deal with the EU and 72 per cent said a trade deal with the EU should be top of the Government’s agenda.

Stephen Martin, IoD director-general, said: “The needs of business and discussion of the economy were largely absent from the campaign but this crash in confidence shows how urgently that must change in the new Government.”