Sunday 20 January 2019 1:17 pm

Nearly half of business leaders now support a second Brexit referendum

Nearly half of business leaders would support a second Brexit referendum following the defeat of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit agreement in parliament.

In a survey of 1,200 business leaders carried out between 17-19 January, 45 per cent said they would support a second referendum or a referendum on the withdrawal deal.

Twenty nine per cent said they wanted the withdrawal agreement changed so it could secure a majority in the House of Commons, twenty three per cent were in favour of a no-deal Brexit on 29 March, and just two per cent were in favour of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's preferred option, a general election.

Further reading: Labour loses up to 150000 members over its stance on Brexit 

Of those that were in favour of a change to the withdrawal deal, 31 per cent said they wanted to see changes to the Irish border backstop agreement and 55 per cent said they wanted a commitment to closer future economic alignment with the EU.

Eighteen per cent said their firm had already activated a Brexit contingency plan and a further 18 per cent said they had plans drawn up but had not yet activated them. Forty per cent said they were waiting on the eventual outcome of talks before they make any changes, while 19 per cent said they had no intention of creating a contingency plan as they did not think Brexit would affect them.

Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors which commissioned the survey, said: “At this moment of national crisis, the ability to put what really matters first seems to have abandoned us. It feels like we are being drawn involuntarily towards no deal like a moth to a flame, knowing we will be burnt but seemingly unable to stop it. Businesses are deeply frustrated our political leaders seem intent on wasting the little time remaining before 29 March trying to fulfil political objectives, rather than coming together to find a way forward.

“As a result, many business leaders now seem willing to contemplate other solutions to break the impasse, including a referendum. This route is fraught with uncertainty of its own, and the fact that some business leaders are prepared to consider it reflects poorly on the efforts of parliament to bring the country together.”