A second referendum would not heal the country's divisions but it would unleash a fresh wave of uncertainty

Christian May
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We've already had the vote (Source: Getty)

Business leaders will this week hurl themselves back into the Brexit debate as some of the most high-profile figures from corporate Britain join the campaign for a second referendum.

They were pretty vocal during the first one, with a series of interventions and letters used to highlight the legitimate concerns that many sectors and firms had about the UK leaving the EU. Now over 70 corporate chiefs have decided to get the band back together and are launching a group called Business for a People's Vote, an offshoot of the formal People's Vote campaign that rose from the ashes of the defeated Remain camp.

The opinions of successful business leaders should never be dismissed, and the concerns outlined in the latest intervention deserve serious consideration and a thoughtful response from ministers. However, the Prime Minister is right to resist the calls for a second referendum. Assuming one were to happen, and the country opted to reverse Brexit, this seismic policy shift would come at a huge cost.

The Prime Minister says asking people to vote again would be a betrayal of voters' trust, and this is true: the divisions that exist today would not be resolved by a second vote, they would be exacerbated. Furthermore, reopening the debate and subjecting the country, businesses and investors to a fresh round of uncertainty would frustrate the vast majority of businesses that are already adapting to the result of 2016.

Despite the existing question marks and some significant sector-specific concerns, investors' confidence in the UK remains bullish. As we report today, over 60 per cent of global investors surveyed by the European private equity and venture capital trade association, Invest Europe, say they are more likely to invest in the UK post-Brexit, up from 30 per cent this time last year. The number who say Brexit makes them less likely to invest stands at 13 per cent, having fallen from more than 30 per cent 12 months ago.

Invest Europe's chief executive Michael Collins says: “The UK has always been a good place to invest and Brexit isn’t really changing people’s perspectives of that fundamental strength."

With this perspective in mind, and as the UK moves closer to agreeing its terms of departure and a future trading relationship with the EU, efforts should be focussed on adapting to a different future, rather than on seeking a return to the past.

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