Yesterday I conducted an entirely unscientific straw poll of a dozen Managing Partners of some of the country's top firms. I asked them to let me know - an an entirely unattributable basis - what they thought would happen on Thursday and how that would impact on deal flow. I added that for what it's worth, I reckoned Remain by a 5% margin and all of them having to cancel their summer holidays to deal with the influx of deals that would follow.
Every single one of them reckoned on Remain, with a majority ranging from slender to 10%. Comments were as follows:
"Not at all sure that the vote will deliver a boost to the economy/activity levels. The global economic environment has worsened over the last few months. By holding the referendum the UK simply brought forward the overall tail-off in activity for the UK/the European Capital Markets.
My expectation is that now is not the moment to increase the cost and expense base of doing business in London. Clients are not going to tolerate increased rates to compensate firms for having increased salary costs in London for reasons with no connection to the London/European markets."
"My guess would be Remain by the same margin as the Scottish referendum - I think the death of Jo Cox has had a significant effect . With regard to work I think there is going to be a bit of a lull after that vote for remain while people absorb the news and see how it plays out with activity being patchy until early autumn. Incidentally we have a few deals in the office which have Brexit break clauses in them."
"I agree with you Matthew - definite hockey stick effect with work flow but I think it might be a broader majority to remain - perhaps 10%"
"I hope remain by a small margin because that will leave the possibility of another referendum in a few years time on the table if the Eurocrats don't start listening to the peoples of Europe.
If it is remain, then I think there will be a small bounce in our sector but more or less getting us back to business as usual pre the referendum slow down (there will be a bigger bounce in the financial markets).
If it is leave, an optimist would say that there will be opportunities, but overall commercial law firms do well if the economy is doing well, so the performance of our sector as a whole (in the UK) will more or less reflect whatever happens to the UK economy for which the short and medium term forecasts are not good. I think even the leading Brexiters seem to accept that there will be a short term negative impact on our economy while uncertainty as to the settlement persists."
"My best guess as to the result is the same as yours.
If that is the result then I still think we will be in for a quietish summer as generally things need to kick off by now to get done by September and no doubt there will be some complicated positions to unwind in relation to the currency, stock market et cetera , but I do think we will then be in for a busy autumn."
"I think it will be remain by a small margin – if I am right I think the impact will be positive and people will breathe again and get back to normal (the political scene will likely shift dramatically!) and the pound will rise.
If I am wrong then I think it will be chaos politically and economically as no-one knows what it will be mean – in the short term I suspect it means we can take the summer off and business will be pretty paralysed, maybe to the end of the year."
"I'm with you that it will be a Remain vote. As to the numbers, the Scottish experience tells us that the undecideds usually vote for no change, so I'm going a little higher - 7-10%
I'm not sure about work then flooding in. I think there are some pretty strong headwinds around at the moment not all of which are within UKs control. Real estate market is stalled and I think likely to remain so."
"I agree with your assessment. I hope we are both right..."
"My view is that this will be like Scotland and Quebec - the nearer we get to the polls the more people will take a conservative view. I therefore think we will stay in by about the 5% margin you think, or possibly a little more. If we stay in life goes on and we think there are a bunch of deals that will go through, but you won't see them until September after the summer break. If we leave, we will be inundated with queries but it will calm down while people work out what they want to do, as Brexit will take a few years to unravel.
And finally, I'll be going on holiday whatever happens because if I don't Mrs L will divorce me and make me take custody of the kids "
"The Referendum is the most important matter to be put to the British electorate in decades. Whichever way it goes it will be close, closer than 5% I feel. My gut feeling is that there will be a vote to Remain. If there is then my best guess is that we will see a surge of deal activity towards the end of this year, rather like we saw after the surprise General Election result. What happens on a Brexit is rather harder to predict. Volatility tends to bring new lines of work as well, but overall I would not expect a Brexit to be good for the City legal community in the short or even medium term, nor would I expect to see transactional activity bounce back for some time while we all try to work out what happens next."
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