The survey was carried out by lobby group techUK which counts more than 900 firms, mostly small and medium-sized businesses, as its members. These companies employ about 700,000 people, roughly half the tech sector jobs in the country, and range from FTSE 100 companies to start-ups.
techUK sought answers from 773 companies between 30 November 2018 and 10 December 2018, and received responses from 276, a 36% response rate. As many tech firms have policies against participating in surveys and also considering the short timescale, techUK said this was a good turnout.
The survey found that most bigger companies (250+ staff) had taken steps to get ready for a no-deal Brexit, but smaller outfits (less than 50 staff) and 46% of mid-sized businesses (50 to 249 staff) had taken no steps to prepare for Britain lurching out of the European Union without a deal.
techUK said when survey respondents were asked why they had not made any preparations for a no-deal Brexit, many firms (49%) said they were unable to predict what impact it would have, while others (37%) were unsure of what they should do to be prepared.
Among the top three preferences of the respondents (64%) was a delay in the UK leaving the EU, with 16% giving this as their primary preference.
Only 11% said their first preference was a no-deal exit, with less than a third (27%) citing it among their top three preferences. Only 2% wanted a general election to sort out the situation, while 25% gave this option among their top three preferences.
A majority (59%) said the UK should retain a closer alignment with the EU after leaving the bloc, while 29% wanted a looser alignment.
techUK chief executive Julian David said: “Our polling suggests that many of our small and mid-sized members, in particular, do not have the resources or information needed to effectively prepare for no deal.
"They want a deal that works and a future relationship that retains a high level of alignment and access to the EU market on issues that matter to the sector, such as the free flow of data, regulation and the availability of talent.
"We believe a simple ‘Canada-style’ free trade agreement would not be an acceptable outcome for most of techUK’s members.”
The UK voted to leave the EU in a referendum held on 23 June 2016. May triggered Article 50, the intention to leave the EU, on 29 March 2017 giving the country two years to leave the 27-member political and economic grouping.
Graphic: courtesy techUK