Business after Brexit: what do small business owners think?

Growth and strategy

24 February 2017

With Prime Minister Theresa May recently announcing the proposed date when the UK will trigger Article 50 to begin formal negotiations to leave the EU, we wanted to find out what Britain's SMEs thought of the process so far.

We conducted a survey*, asking the question: "How do you feel about the prospect of doing business following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU? Please share how it might affect your business (if at all)." Here’s just a cross-section of the responses we received.

An immediate impact

The fall in the value of the pound has affected many businesses, though this is positive for some, such as those who work with the US. However, several business owners were worried about the economic impact of currency fluctuations. Industries that import materials are feeling the pinch: “Prices have gone up 10% already from one of our regular suppliers”.

Optimistic about Brexit

Some people in our survey were positive about the result of the referendum: “I am genuinely THRILLED as are all the small-business owners with whom I have spoken”. Several mentioned “less bureaucracy” and the positive effect of opening up trade with other countries: “We don’t need the EU to be successful”.

For others, it is a distant issue: “It makes no difference to me, I only deal with the domestic market”. Many simply replied with “confident” or “fine”.

Concerned for future business

There were specific concerns to do with international partnerships: “I work with an Indian company who no longer want to have a European base here – I trade on their behalf within the EU and I'm concerned this will become increasingly difficult”.

There are also general economic uncertainties: “Costs will go up through sterling devaluation. Economically, Brexit is a disaster.” Several respondents mentioned “knock-on effects”, where any reduction in customers’ incomes could affect their bottom line. Another business owner expressed concern about a reduction in tourism.

The wait-and-see approach

As we don’t know the full implications of Brexit in practice, waiting to see what transpires is a common approach. One frequent response was “don’t know yet", or “too early to say”. One person wrote: “I am waiting to find out – it could go either way depending on what deal we get with the EU”.

We received a variety of honest and interesting responses – from "positive" to "gloomy", plus many who were still unsure. This suggests that there is not yet a consensus among small-business owners over the consequences of leaving the EU.

So what’s your opinion? Have your say in the comments below and tell us your business outlook following Brexit.

*Based on AXA Business Insurance survey of 500 UK SMEs, September 2016