Brexit is loosening the ties that once bound Conservative to British business, a YouGov poll of more than 1,000 entrepreneurs and company executives reveals today. 

The survey, commissioned by the People’s Vote campaign, showed two-thirds – 66 per cent - of business people regard the Conservatives as traditionally the party that pursues policies which increase prosperity and help well-run businesses, with just 24 disagreeing.

But on Brexit the figures are reversed - with only 26 per cent of those surveyed saying the party is pursuing business-friendly policies – while 57 per cent disagreed.

Dominic Grieve, Conservative MP for Beaconsfield and the former Attorney-General, said:

“This poll highlights the extent that the Conservative Party is jeopardising its reputation for economic competence with the business community as a result of the way Brexit has unfolded. 

“This should be a wake-up call because our party is risking everything for which we have always stood. Those sections of the party which are guided by the ideology of Brexit have only served to damage the ability of the Government to get any positive outcome from these negotiations. That is why more and more people from all parties and of none are saying we want a People’s Vote.”

Overall, the business leaders surveyed split 59 to 41 in favour of staying in the European Union while they divided in similar fashion – 57 to 43 – in favour of a People’s Vote on the outcome of Brexit negotiations once “don’t knows” are removed.

But the poll also reveals sharp differences between those who export to the EU and those that do not.

  • Business leaders from companies that do no trade with EU would split 50-50 between staying in the EU and Leaving if they were given a public vote.
  • Executives from companies whose trade with the EU is less than 10 per cent of turnover split 58-42 in favour of staying in.
  • But those from firms whose trade with EU is more than 10 per cent of turnover split 70-30 in favour of staying in.

The survey shows that business leaders have had a bleak experience in the past two years and now have low expectations of Brexit.

  • Just 9 per cent say life has got easier for their company since the referendum while 43 per cent say it has got harder
  • Almost three-quarters (73 per cent) believe Britain is heading for a bad deal against just 20 per cent who still think it will get a good deal.
  • The proportion who say a bad deal will be the fault of the government is twice as large (64 per cent) than those who disagree (32 per cent)
  • A total of 82 per cent say that promises made by Leave campaigners are likely to be broken, compared to 14 per cent who do not. 
  • By an overwhelming margin of 87 per cent to 7 per cent businesses think the process of Brexit has been a mess and are three times more likely to think turnover will go down in Britain does leave the EU.
  • And business leaders would prefer – by 61 to 33 per cent - to trade freely with Europe than control immigration

Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Republic which promotes Latitude, Reading & Leeds Festivals, Download, Wireless, V Festival and overseas events including Benicassim, Electric Picnic and Lollapalooza Berlin Festival,  said: 

“Every year the festivals I run welcome artists and performers from across Europe and the world. They benefit from our open borders but also love the tolerant and inclusive country which we have become.A hard or no deal Brexit would not only create worrying commercial difficulties for my industry, but would cripple the economy and potentially strand our artists at passport control when they should be striding onto the main stage.

"It would also damage the cultural diversity which has helped Britain become one of the world's best places for music and entertainment. It would destroy the optimistic future we should hope for for our young people. We all deserve a vote on the detail and principle of what any new relationship with Europe is for our country. Our young people deserve it more than most and the only way we can sort this mess out is to hold a People's Vote."

Richard Reed, founder of JamJar Investments and Innocent Drinks, said: 

 “Just six months left before the self-imposed Brexit deadline, and we're still faced with a worrying lack of detail and clarity. Will we have the same level of access to our key export markets? Will raw materials for UK-made products be delivered in time? Will we be able to avoid chaos at the ports and unending queues at the borders? People deserve to know what is in store for them, and the Government needs to provide answers. 

“We spent years building a recognised brand and a business to be proud of. Brexit hits us left, right and centre. The EU has become an essential part of the DNA of British business, and we are now being pulled out of a market of 500 million people without an agreed plan or even an idea of what the future holds. A people's vote will provide credibility and restore much-needed sanity.” 

Nick Hart, Operations Director for Kampmann UK, said: 

“We import £5-6m of goods a year into the UK for the construction sector. Our concerns are with the uncertainty of Brexit. The negotiations are not going well and we are looking at equipment being stuck at Harwich, Dover, Folkestone for how long, we just don't know. 

“It is just impossible to know how to cost up the potential impact of this and that is already having an impact on our business.That is why I am backing a People's Vote, we should all have the chance to vote with knowledge of what the full facts now are.”



Notes to Editors:

All figures, unless otherwise stated are from YouGov plc. The survey was of 1,004 senior decision makers in all business sizes between September 18 and September 26 2018.