Business leaders optimistic as Brexit worries subside

Brexit is no longer the chief concern for British finance directors for the first time since the 2016 referendum, according to a survey from Deloitte.

Chief financial officers (CFOs) at some of the UK’s biggest companies still think that Brexit will be bad for the business environment, but they are more positive than in recent surveys.

Brexit fell from being the top concern in every one of the quarterly surveys since June 2016, to third place in the most recent results.

Weak demand and geopolitical risks both overtook Brexit at the forefront of CFOs’ minds.

“The fog of uncertainty that has lingered over the UK since the 2016 EU referendum is lifting,” said Ian Stewart, the auditor’s chief economist.

The Big Four auditor said that more than half those surveyed are more optimistic about the prospects for their company than they were a quarter ago. It compares to just 9% in the last survey, three months ago.

It was the highest level since the survey started 11 years ago, Deloitte said.

“It is very encouraging to see such a dramatic uptick in business confidence,” said Richard Houston, a chief executive of Deloitte North and South Europe.

“The big question is to what extent positive expectations for revenues, spending and hiring, translate into an actual strengthening of corporate activity in 2020.”

Researchers reached out to 119 chief financial officers (CFOs), many from FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies between December 16 and January 6.

Mr Houston added: “In addition to boosting business confidence, a majority government is well placed to focus on the challenges and opportunities the UK faces. Rebalancing the economy, driving growth across all regions and focusing on skills and social mobility can help to position the UK as an attractive place to do business in the long term.”