Brexit in the balance as businesses have their final say

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UK EU brexit

Squalid, dishonest, jingoistic and divisive on all sides, the Brexit debate has not been the UK’s finest hour. So it’s all the more unfortunate that its reputation rests upon the result. 

The instability Brexit would contribute to an already less than stable world has taken the debate global. And the globe isn’t at all keen on the prospect. Although if you’re still undecided you can always take a break from the febrile debate going on in the UK and look what is being said around the world, by whom.

For instance, Noam Chomsky is firmly in support of Remain. Marine Le Pen wants the opposite. And I’m only cherry-picking from the Remain camp. It’s genuinely hard to find a major player on the world stage that publicly advocates Brexit, unless you count Donald Trump.

Still, the British public remains in the balance, despite anti-immigration vitriol floating to the top of the Leave campaign agenda like scum.

From a purely business perspective, last weekend in The Sun (which, like the Daily Mail, is backing Brexit), 37 entrepreneurs came out in favour of Leave, led by former Pizza Express boss Luke Johnson. They claimed the EU stifles growth and their success was achieved “in spite of the EU not because of it”.

The decision to choose a brilliant success story (Pizza Express has over 440 restaurants in the UK and overseas, has a chilled brand in the grocers worth £108m, and was sold to PE group Hony Capital for £900m last year) to moan about how successful it might have been had it not been strapped into an EU “straitjacket” was surely not the smartest move by the Leave camp. But it was always going to top the list because Johnson was one of the very few top businessmen to come out for Brexit. 

On the Remain side, this morning The Times published a letter from 1,280 British businesses urging voters to stay. Their fears are familiar but no less potent for it: the inevitable disruption to the world’s largest single market; the loss of opportunity for investment, growth and new jobs; the dreaded contract renegotiations.

Not dreams of what might be, just warnings of the uncertain reality.

Just to add to that uncertainty, the latest polls have both sides neck and neck. But Oddschecker, which collates odds from all bookies over the place, says 80.3% of cash over the past 24 hours has been staked on Remain. And the amounts being wagered on Remain are five times as much as the money placed on Leave. “It appears the referendum has never looked so one-sided from a betting perspective,” says the website.

Not that anyone on either side should count on that. The polls open at 7am. The result is due 24 hours later. What are the odds on a recount?

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