The survey of 3,394 business owners and finance directors found those in the Midlands, east of England and northern England were the most optimistic about Brexit being helpful to the economy.
The survey, by Charterhouse Research consultancy, found 35% of respondents thought Brexit would be harmful, 25% thought it would be good for the economy and 39% did not think it would make any difference.
Opinions varied by size of company, by business sector and by region, the research compilers said. Almost two-thirds, or 62%, of large companies with turnover of £25m and up thought Brexit would be bad for the economy. That proportion fell to 38% for startups and 34% for small companies with turnover under £100,000.
“This may be due to the disproportionate impact adhering to EU employment directives has on smaller organisations’ resources, and the fact that larger organisations probably have the infrastructure to cope, so there is less of a business impact,” said Kathy Ellison, director of Charterhouse Research.
Business services and finance was the sector most in favour of remain while construction and agriculture, forestry and fishing were most in favour of leaving.
In the Midlands and east of England, 30% of those surveyed said a leave vote would make them feel more positive about the UK economy. In the north of England, 28% felt that way. Businesses in London and Scotland were most concerned about Brexit, with about two-fifths feeling it would have a detrimental effect on the economy.
“Scotland is known to be mainly pro-Europe whereas London businesses tend to be heavily reliant upon financial services,” said Ellison.
Businesses in the south-east were the most likely to feel that leaving the EU would make no difference to the UK economy.