A survey of 116 Swiss company finance chiefs has found very little concern for the economic consequences of Britain leaving the European Union. The findings are at odds with more alarming comments from some trade groups on the subject.
Only 17% of finance bosses questioned by Deloitte forecast negative consequences of British voters opting for a Brexit on June 23. Some 4% of respondents to the survey released on Wednesday believed it could have a positive effect on their business while the overwhelming majority thought Britain’s possible exit from the EU would have no bearing on their trade.
Finding consensus on the possible business consequences of Brexit is difficult. An earlier British-Swiss Chamber of Commerce survey of 185 firms in both countries found that half feared negative consequences and only 13.5% thought prospects would be brighter.
On Wednesday, the Swiss Trade lobby group warned that Brexit would be a “worst-case scenario” as it would likely strengthen the franc further against the euro. Daniel Küng, head of the export advisory service Switzerland Global Enterprise, said earlier this month that Brexit would be a “hammer blow” for Swiss exporters.
On the other hand, Switzerland’s largest trade lobby group – the Swiss Business Federation (economiesuisse) – is more relaxed about the prospect of a Brexit. “There will be no sudden shock or catastrophe if Britain leaves the EU,” economiesuisse’s Jan Atteslander told swissinfo.ch last month. “The world will still be the same on June 24.”
This ‘limited impact’ view is shared by economists at Swiss bank UBS who rate the chances of Brexit actually occurring at no more than 30%. Even if Britain does leave the EU, UBS believes that currency exchange rates have already adjusted in advance, leaving little room for a major strengthening of the franc.
TTIP and Schengen
The Deloitte survey found Swiss finance chiefs also unconcerned about the prospect of a free trade agreement between the EU and the United States coming to fruition. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – which is still in the negotiation stage – would have no impact on business, according to 80% of respondents.
Some 14% thought TTIP might boost their business despite the fact that Switzerland would not be one of the principle partners in the trade agreement.
The survey found more concern for the prospect of Switzerland leaving the EU’s Schengen pact that governs the cross-border movement of people. The possibility of Switzerland’s theoretical Schengen exit has been raised ever since Swiss-EU relations soured following a 2014 Swiss vote to curb immigration of foreign workers.
Some 44% of survey respondents warned of negative consequences if Switzerland is thrown out of the Schengen agreement. Fears primarily centered on the potential of increased problems in finding foreign talent to fill work positions in Switzerland.