In December techUK polled our members to seek their views on what should happen in the event that Parliament should fail to vote in favour of the Withdrawal Agreement. The poll was undertaken ahead of the meaningful vote that was scheduled for 11 December. That vote was pulled but yesterday Parliament finally had the opportunity to make its opinion known on the deal.
The result was an overwhelming defeat, losing by 432 votes to 202, the biggest ever defeat of a Governing Party. The result of the vote shows that the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration will not receive Parliamentary support as things currently stand.
In response to the defeat of the Government’s deal, techUK is today publishing the full results of our survey setting out views on a range of Brexit issues. With the Prime Minister suggesting she now intends to reach out across Parliament to explore options, we hope that the results provide some insight into the views of the techUK members who are building the businesses of the future.
The full results of our survey can be found here.
In order to ensure the anonymity of those taking part and to provide support on the design of the questions, techUK commissioned Ipsos MORI to conduct an online survey. It ran between 30 November to 10 December 2018, with all of the subsequent analysis and interpretation undertaken by techUK.
In terms of turnout, we received a 36 per cent response rate, meaning 276 members responded out of the 773 who received the invite to participate. Given that many members have policies against engaging in surveys, and the short timescales for the survey, this is viewed as a good turn out and on par with surveys conducted by other organisations.
So what did our survey say?
No to No Deal
Our survey asked a number of questions about members’ views of the impact of No Deal. Of those responding to the poll 70 per cent said that they believe that a No Deal outcome in March 2019 would have a very negative or fairly negative impact on their business. The survey also shows that 84 per cent of respondents believe the UK overall is unprepared for No Deal.
The survey further suggests that while most larger firms (250+ staff) have taken steps to prepare for a No Deal Brexit, many smaller tech business are unprepared for the UK leaving without a deal, with 65 per cent of smaller firms (<50 staff), and 46 per cent of mid-sized businesses (50-249 staff) who responded to the survey, saying they have taken no active steps to prepare for No Deal.
When asked why they have not taken steps to prepare for No Deal, many firms said it was because they were unable to predict what impact it would have (49 per cent) or were unsure what steps to take (37 per cent).
techUK has voiced real concerns about the impact of No Deal on the sector, most recently here, where we set out just some of the implications No Deal might have. With the failure of the Withdrawal Agreement yesterday, it now seems clear that the Government should look to take No Deal off the table.
What should happen if Parliament rejects the deal?
One of the key questions our survey asked was what members thought about the options available if Parliament rejected the Withdrawal Agreement. Our poll shows that, as has now transpired, if the Government were to lose the vote on the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration, around half of those who responded to the survey (51 per cent of the 276 respondents) said that supporting calls for another referendum would be their first preference choice. Sixty three per cent of members selected a second referendum as one of their top three preferences.
However, in a sign of the complexity of the issue, supporting calls for a delay to Article 50 in order to allow time for further negotiations, which received 16 per cent of first preferences, was put in the top three preferences of 64 per cent of respondents.
Only 11 per cent of members responding viewed accepting No Deal as their first preference, with less than one third (27 per cent) listing it in their top three preferences. Very few respondents (2 per cent) selected a General Election as a first preference and only 25 per cent included it in their top three preferences.
techUK has consistently warned of the need for an orderly exit, avoiding No Deal, so as to allow for close future alignment with the EU. We supported the Withdrawal Agreement as a reasonable way of securing an orderly Brexit that secures our policy objectives. You can find out more about our position on the Withdrawal Agreement here.
What kind of final deal?
When asked about what kind of relationship the UK should seek with the EU after Brexit, six in ten respondents (59 per cent) supporting closer alignment compared to 29 per cent supporting looser alignment.
techUK believes this runs counter to the view expressed in the Chequers White Paper that more flexibility over the rules surrounding the digital sector would be preferable post-Brexit, even if it meant losing some access to EU markets.
This also reconfirms techUK’s view that a simple ‘Canada-style’ Free Trade Agreement would not be acceptable in terms of meeting the policy needs of many tech businesses. We published a blog on this issue earlier this week.
What we’ve said about the survey
techUK CEO, Julian David, has given his view on the survey results, saying:
“techUK has consistently warned of the dire risks of a disorderly exit from the EU. The Withdrawal Agreement would have provided a workable route forward, but this has been overwhelmingly rejected by Parliament. The UK now risks No Deal by default unless the deadlock can be broken.”
“Our polling suggests that many of our small and mid-sized members in particular do not have the resources or information needed to effectively prepare for No Deal. They want a deal that works and a future relationship that retains a high level of alignment and access to the EU market on issues that matter to the sector, such as the free flow of data, regulation and the availability of talent. We believe a simple ‘Canada-style’ free trade agreement would not be an acceptable outcome for most of techUK’s members.”
“Parliament has rejected the Withdrawal Agreement and now needs to find a workable way forward to break the deadlock. All alternative options now need to be considered including putting the question back to the public.”
The press release on the findings can be found here.