EU referendum one year on: SME owners in London are divided over chances of a Brexit success

Here’s why

With the one year anniversary of Britain’s historic decision to leave the EU upon us this week, many owners of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in London have shared their views on the current and future impact of Brexit on their business, in new research published by AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians).

  • 37 per cent of London-based SME owners say initial response to Brexit has been positive for their business; 17 per cent have experienced a negative reaction
  • 44 per cent are optimistic that Brexit will ultimately be a success; 30 per cent are pessimistic
  • 23 per cent SME owners in London feel no current leading political figure would act in their business’ interests

Small business owners in London were generally more positive (37 per cent) than negative (17 per cent) about the current impact of the referendum’s decision on their business, and nationally, there are a number of ‘re-Leavers,’ those who voted Remain but have now changed their minds towards Leave. Of those who voted to remain, seven per cent say they would now vote leave. By contrast, only three per cent of leave voters would now vote remain.

General reasons for owners having a positive mindset around Brexit for their business included having increased optimism and confidence for the future, and the devaluation of the pound helping some owners for whom workers may be paid in other currencies. Conversely, the weakness of sterling was viewed as a cause for concern by other business owners, along with a reduction in the ability to recruit immigrants for labour.

Nearly half (44 per cent) of SME owners in London said they were optimistic as to the chances of Brexit ultimately being a success; significantly more than the third (30 per cent) that were pessimistic about its chances. Around a third (35 per cent) believed Brexit would ultimately have a positive impact on their business, again higher than those who felt it would have a negative impact (26 per cent).

A further 24 per cent felt Brexit would have neither a positive or negative impact on their small business, while 11 per cent thought it would have no impact whatsoever.

Party politics

Following this month’s General Election, prime minister Theresa May is viewed as the politician London-based small business owners think will most likely act in the best interests of their business (35 per cent) with Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn is lagging behind (20 per cent).

Aside from the main two leaders, Brexit secretary David Davis (eight per cent) and chancellor Philip Hammond (five per cent) were seen to be the most supportive of small businesses, although nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of SME owners in London felt no current leading political figure would act in their business’ interests.

Adam Harper, director of strategy and professional standards, AAT, said: “Brexit clearly remains a divisive issue throughout the UK, with small business owners sharing with us how they view the upcoming EU withdrawal as both an opportunity and a concern, in almost equal measure.

“With talks over our exit strategy now underway, we can only hope that Britain’s future business successes with our partners inside and outside of the European Union are at the forefront of our political leaders’ minds.

“Issues including our businesses’ ability to trade, the potential impact of new regulations and policies, and supply of skilled workers will all need to be strongly considered, while small businesses will need regular advice and support as to what Brexit will actually mean for their company.”

 

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