Confidence among Britain’s businesses appears brittle as fears about trade and economic growth have escalated in a trio of surveys.
Brexit has been identified as the biggest concern among those in control of company finances and is likely to lead to more subdued spending by businesses, according to a Deloitte survey.
A total of 112 chief financial officers, including 83 at major listed companies, told Deloitte in its latest survey that Brexit was their most prominent concern, rating it at 62 out of 100 in the final quarter of 2017 – up from 58 in the prior quarter.
What is more, nearly three quarters (73pc) said they expected the overall business environment to worsen following Brexit, up from 60pc in the third quarter.
This prompted 39pc (up from 30pc) to claim they expected the amount they spent on investing in their businesses to drop. Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte, said CFOs were “more focused on controlling costs than at any time in the past eight years”.
The manufacturers’ organisation EEF and global insurer AIG also found some growing pessimism in their 2018 outlook survey of 281 senior company executives in the manufacturing and engineering sectors.
Half of the respondents claimed they saw more risks to their businesses than opportunities in 2018, virtually double the number who thought the opposite.
Brexit also exacerbates several of the manufacturing sector’s concerns. EEF and AIG asked respondents whether their worries were related or unrelated to the UK leaving the EU.
It found fears about rising input costs, economic volatility, a rising exodus of EU workers and major customers leaving the UK were all linked to Brexit.
Lloyds Bank’s Business in Britain report also identified some unease from the business community. The bank found a steep drop in the number of businesses who felt their interest would be protected post-Brexit in its survey of more than 1,500 predominantly small and medium-sized companies.
The survey was conducted before Prime Minister Theresa May secured an agreement to move on to the second phase of Brexit talks.