Almost two-thirds of businesses surveyed said the decision to leave the European Union would be bad for them
The impact of Brexit is starkly underlined by a new poll showing business chiefs are preparing to cut jobs and move operations abroad.
A survey by the Institute of Directors found 64% of its members said the decision to leave the EU would be bad for their companies.
The findings came as Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said investment in the UK had “all but dried up” and two major banks were reported to be shifting thousands of staff out of the UK.
Mr Hammond said it would be “catastrophic” if the UK now lost its access to the single market.
Without that the country would “slide down the league table getting relatively poorer,” he warned.
“I believe that it is essential that we protect our access to the single European market.
“Whether we like it or not our economy over 40 years has become shaped by that access and to lose that access now would be catastrophic,” he told ITV’s Peston show.
He added: “As of now, as we sit here, I believe that the flow of foreign direct investment into the UK has all but dried up while international businesses wait to see how this question is resolved.
“We absolutely need that flow of foreign direct investment, we do not pay our way in the world, we import far more than we export, and we balance that account by a very strong flow of foreign investment into the UK.
“That’s what is creating the jobs, the growth, the prosperity in this country, and much of that is driven by the fact that we have access to the single market, we are a platform for international business to access that single market,” he said.
As the consequences of Brexit became clearer, Business Secretary Sajid Javid announced he would be convening a meeting of major business leaders this week to try to persuade them to stay in the UK.
Mr Javid also rowed back on his campaign warning that Brexit would throw the country into recession.
“I think if we all work together we can avoid many of the things that were forecast, we’ve got a chance to do that and I’ve been reassuring businesses,” he said.
The poll by the Institute of Directors also found 24% are planning to freeze recruitment and 22% are considering moving some of their operations overseas.
The IoD’s Simon Walker said: “We can’t sugar-coat this, many of our members are feeling anxious.
“A majority of business leaders think the vote for Brexit is bad for them, and as a result plans for investment and hiring are being put on hold or scaled back.”