Revealed: 96% of accountants reject Theresa May’s Brexit deal

Brought to you by Accountex

New research reveals that a huge majority of accountants reject Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit strategy.

The survey conducted by Accountex, the UK’s leading trade show for the accounting and finance profession, found that 96% of respondents favoured alternatives to May’s proposed EU exit deal.

Almost half (48%) of the 260 UK accounting professionals surveyed stated that their preferred outcome of Brexit is to remain in the EU.  However, more than one fifth of respondents (21%) said they want the UK to leave the EU with ‘no deal’ and trade on WTO terms.  Only 4% back the PM’s Withdrawal Agreement as their preferred EU exit route.

A Canada-style free trade deal was the preference of a further 9%, while a Norway plus option, with the UK joining the EEA and the addition of a customs union, was supported by 8% of respondents.  Only 5% backed the call for a second referendum and just 4% favoured extending the Brexit deadline to give more time for negotiations.

With just over three weeks remaining until the UK is due to leave the EU and a deal yet to be agreed, the poll also revealed that almost three quarters (74%) of accounting professionals are concerned about a ‘no deal’ Brexit and a further 59% think that ‘no deal’ should be avoided at all costs.

Of those surveyed, 59% of accounting professionals think that a ‘no deal’ Brexit will have a negative impact on their business and 58% of accountants in practice believe ‘no deal’ will have a negative impact on their clients’ businesses.

Ian Moss, editor at Accountex, commented:

“We surveyed over 260 professionals from the accounting and finance sector and the sentiment was very clear: much like the MPs in parliament, an overwhelming majority reject Theresa May’s Brexit plan.

The sector also showed little support for a second referendum or delaying Brexit – it’s apparent that decisive action and clarity is what’s desired. What form that action should take is less clear cut, with almost half wanting the UK to remain in the EU and the rest split between ‘no deal’ and various trade deal options.”

The research also revealed that one third (33%) of accountants in practice have seen an increase in the number of clients turning to them to analyse the risk posed by Brexit and provide advice in recent months.

However, when asked whether the government and HMRC has provided sufficient information about Brexit to enable them to provide the desired strategic guidance to their clients or businesses, 88% of accounting professionals stated it has been inadequate.

Ian Moss continued:

“Technological advances mean that the role of accountants is moving from compliance towards advisory – and in 2019 that often takes the form of advising businesses regarding Brexit planning.  With the 29th March deadline drawing ever closer, it’s no surprise that one third of respondents to our survey have reported an increase in the number of clients turning to them to provide guidance about Brexit in recent months.  However, it’s concerning that a majority of accounting professionals felt that they had inadequate information to allow them to give their clients and businesses the desired support. 

From March the UK could be facing changes to tariffs and quotas on EU imports and exports, as well as all the VAT implications, but it’s not yet clear what form these will take – or whether they will happen at all.  Clarity is urgently needed to enable UK businesses and the finance professionals who advise them to put in place effective contingency plans.”

In terms of the impact that Brexit has had on businesses so far, 40% of respondents said that Brexit had already impacted their business’s financial planning decisions.  

Of those, almost one fifth (19%) said that they had made less ambitious revenue forecasts for the year ahead and 17% said they had held off from investment.  Only 16% reported that they had begun contingency planning for a ‘no deal’ scenario and 15% had assessed the risk for each potential outcome of Brexit.

The survey:

The survey was conducted in January 2019 and is based on responses from 264 accounting and finance professionals from businesses across the UK.

The research was undertaken by Accountex – the leading trade show in Europe for the accounting and finance profession – which will take place on 1-2 May 2019 at ExCeL London.

For further information about the event, or to register to attend, please visit: https://www.accountex.co.uk/london/

The results:

Which is your preferred outcome of Brexit?

  • Remaining in the EU – 48.02%
  • Leaving the EU with no deal and trading on WTO terms – 21.43%
  • A Canada style free trade deal with the EU – 9.13%
  • A Norway plus style deal, with the UK joining the EEA with the addition of a customs union – 7.54%
  • A second referendum on the UK's membership of the EU – 5.16%
  • Extending Article 50 and delaying Brexit to give more time for negotiations – 4.37%
  • Renegotiating the terms of Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement – 4.37%

How concerned are you about a 'no deal' Brexit?

  • Very concerned – 52.59%
  • Somewhat concerned – 21.12%
  • Not concerned at all – 26.29%         

Do you believe that a 'no deal' Brexit should be avoided at all costs?

  • Yes – 59.13%
  • No – 40.87%            

Do you think that a 'no deal' Brexit would have a positive or negative impact on your business?

  • Positive – 9.96%
  • Negative – 58.92%
  • No impact – 31.12%

Do you think that a 'no deal' Brexit would have a positive or negative impact on your clients' businesses? (Accountants in practice only)

  • Positive – 8.24%
  • Negative – 58.24%
  • No impact – 33.53%

In recent months, have you seen an increase in the number of clients turning to you to analyse the risk posed by Brexit and provide advice? (Accountants in practice only)

  • Yes – 33.14%
  • No – 66.86%

Do you feel that the government and HMRC have provided adequate information to enable you to give the desired strategic guidance?

  • Yes – 12.45%
  • No – 87.55%            

Has Brexit impacted your business's financial planning decisions so far?

  • Yes – 39.51%
  • No – 60.49%

If yes: How has Brexit impacted your business's financial planning decisions so far? (Select all that apply)

  • Less ambitious revenue forecasting for the year ahead – 18.09%
  • Holding off from investment – 17.41%
  • Contingency planning for a ‘no deal’ Brexit – 15.70%
  • Risk assessing for each potential outcome of Brexit – 15.02%
  • Shifting to short-term financial planning – 10.92%
  • Moving business to locations outside of the UK – 9.90%
  • Holding off from hiring new staff – 9.56%

In terms of job roles, 73% of participants are accountants in practice and 27% are accountants in business.  Of the accountants in practice, 29% are directors, 27% are sole practioners, 14% are senior managers, 13% are qualified accountants, 11% are partners, 4% are trainee accountants, 2% junior managers and 1% are bookkeepers.  Of the accountants in business, 23% are finance directors, 19% are finance managers, 17% are consultants, 14% are financial controllers, 14% are CFOs, 10% are CEOs and 3% are IT directors.