A majority of business leaders in the UK want the Government to prioritise maintaining access to the European single market in the Brexit negotiations a survey has found.

The Institute of Directors said 51 per cent of respondents to a member survey said ministers should keep UK regulations in line with those in the single market to help preserve trading links with EU members.

By contrast 21 per cent thought ministers should take advantage of the flexibility offered by leaving the EU to reform domestic regulations, even at the cost of reducing access to the single market.

Loading article content

“IoD members are clear that they want the UK to cooperate closely with the EU after Brexit to make sure they have the most access they can get to the Single Market,” said Allie Renison, head of EU and trade policy at the IoD.

She added: “The Government will have to decide what the UK’s post-Brexit trade strategy is, and which trade deals we will pursue across the world, but companies are calling for the Government to balance this new freedom with the need to hold on to our biggest market.”

The survey found the top priority of members is for the government to reach an early agreement to preserve the rights of citizens, in order to provide reassurance for companies and their staff.

The IoD said other pressing priorities included the need to avoid tariffs and to secure agreement on a transition deal as soon as possible.

Ms Renison said a quick agreement on a transition deal could prevent companies from having to take premature decisions on relocating operations.

Around one in five respondents, 22 per cent, said they might have to move some operations to the EU. Seventy five per cent said they would not be moving any operations to it.

However, 45 per cent of respondents felt unable to plan for Brexit.

Completed in October, the survey had responses from more than 900 IoD members.