A new survey of self-employed professionals has found that confidence in the UK economy is diminishing as Brexit approaches.
The report by freelancer body IPSE, A Brexit deal for the self-employed, reveals that 61% of freelancers say that the result of the EU referendum is the main factor negatively affecting their business confidence.
This is the first time since IPSE has been tracking confidence that concerns about Brexit have overtaken other factors, such as Government policy.
The report includes the results of a survey of more than 1,000 UK self-employed workers, commissioned by IPSE and undertaken by ComRes in late 2017, and IPSE's quarterly Freelancer Confidence Index for the same period.
The Index sustained its largest ever fall in the year of the referendum and has remained at near record lows ever since. Freelancers' confidence in the UK economy sunk to -43.3 in December 2017, the second lowest levels on record.
More than half of freelancers polled by ComRes (54%) say they are concerned about the progress of the negotiations and 81% said they expect their costs to increase in the lead-up to Britain formally leaving the European Union by 29 March 2019.
Chris Bryce, IPSE ceo said: "If the ComRes poll is a reflection of the wider economy, we are in for a stormy Brexit. The record decline in the confidence of the vital self-employed sector should be a serious concern for the Government as it enters the final, decisive few months of the negotiations.
"Not only are the self-employed a good indicator for the rest of the economy, they also bring enormous benefits to it. In fact, the flexibility they provide is one of the UK economy's most significant competitive advantages.
"As this report says, for the sake of this crucial sector, the Government must replace the uncertainty and turbulence we have seen recently with calm, clarity and confidence."