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Only a quarter of UK business leaders say their organizations are fully ready for the end of the Brexit transition period, in a new survey from the Institute of Directors.

Nearly half of the 978 company directors polled in late June said they weren’t able to prepare right now, with one in seven distracted by COVID-19 and almost a third saying they needed the details of any changes to be clear before adjusting.

Those in the financial sector were most likely to be ready while manufacturers in particular had more to do. Directors in services felt especially unable to prepare at present, whether due to pressures of the pandemic or because they needed more clarity on changes.

The vast majority (69 percent) said that a UK-EU deal was important for their organization, with even more (89 percent) saying it was important for the economy as a whole as it recovers. Even among the portion of directors who favoured being able to diverge from EU rules, most (71 percent) said that getting a deal was important to the economy.

The Institute argued that time to adjust once changes are clear would be vital to business recovery, deal or no deal. It called on the UK and EU to commit to a reciprocal, phased implementation wherever possible, and for the UK government to provide greater clarity on its contingency plans in the event of a no deal.

To minimise disruption in the context of COVID-19, the IoD also reiterated its call for financial support for small firms to access specialist help and advice on a range of Brexit impact areas, for instance in the form of tax credits or ‘Brexit vouchers’ to follow in the footsteps of other EU countries.

Jonathan Geldart, Director General of the Institute of Directors, said:“With so much going on, many directors feel that preparing for Brexit proper is like trying to hit a moving target. Jumping immediately into whatever comes next would be a nightmare for many businesses.”

The survey results for preparedness from 978 respondents were as follows:

We are fully prepared

24 percent

We are somewhat prepared but intend to do more

19 percent

We can't focus on Brexit due to the impact of coronavirus on my organisation

14 percent

We will adjust once final changes are clear

31 percent

We don't expect Brexit to impact my organisation

11 percent

Don't know

2 percent

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