Business bosses’ confidence rises to highest since Article 50 trigger

Confidence in the economy among Britains business leaders has improved to its strongest since the triggering of Article 50, according to a poll from the Institute of Directors (IoD) to be published today.

The survey of almost 700 bosses by the lobby group found risen to positive territory for the first time in almost a year, coinciding with the agreement between the government and the EU to negotiate a transition period in which the trade relationship remains unchanged.

The balance of leaders saying they are optimistic overall about the prospects for the British economy rose to one per cent for the first time since April 2017.

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Uncertainty over the trade relationship after the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019 dropped out of the top three concerns of bosses for the first time since May fired the starting gun on Brexit.

Brexit secretary David Davis and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier announced the transition deal on 19 March, telling firms the UK will remain inside the EUs Single Market and customs union until the end of 2020.

The deal was broadly welcomed with relief by business groups who had feared trade with the EU could be abruptly cut off.

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However, the IoDs confidence measure still remains below the significantly higher levels – reaching 19 per cent in February 2017 – seen before in the months before May triggered Article 50.

The survey shows broader economic conditions remain the top concern of business leaders, echoing economists consensus expectations that UK GDP growth will slow this year to 1.5 per cent.

Tej Parikh, the IoDs senior economist, said it is likely progress in Brexit negotiations “brought some much needed reassurance” for firms but urged the government to provide more detail on its aims for trade and regulation after the end of the transition period.

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