Brexit remains divisive, says survey of Yorkshire’s SMEs

An EU flag flies in front of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London Photo:  Victoria Jones/PA Wire
An EU flag flies in front of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London Photo: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
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YORKSHIRE’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have mixed opinions about the prospects for their business after Britain leaves the European Union, according to a new study.

The research published by the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) reveals that, almost a year after the referendum, Brexit remains a divisive issue, with around a third of SME owners in the region believing that none of the UK’s leading politicians will act in their companies’ interests.

An AAT spokesman said: “Small business owners in Yorkshire and the Humber were slightly more positive (20 per cent) than negative (19 per cent) about the current impact of the referendum’s decision on their business.”

The business owners who took a positive view of Brexit said the vote to leave the EU had made them feel more confident about the future.

The devaluation of the pound, which followed the Brexit vote, also helped some owners who pay their workers 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,’’ the spokesman said.

More than one in three (35 per cent) of SME owners who were quizzed in Yorkshire and the Humber said they were pessimistic about the chances of Brexit being a success; which was slightly higher than those who were optimistic about its chances (30 per cent).

Around a quarter (23 per cent) believed Brexit would ultimately have a positive impact on their business, with around the same number feeling it would have a negative impact (22 per cent).

A further 25 per cent felt Brexit would have neither a positive nor negative impact on their small business, while 19 per cent thought it would have no impact whatsoever.

The spokesman added: “Following this month’s General Election, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is viewed as the politician Yorkshire and Humber-based small business owners think will most likely act in the best interests of their business (27 per cent), with Prime Minister Theresa May lagging behind (20 per cent).

“Aside from the main two leaders, returning Liberal Democrat MP Vince Cable (6 per cent) and Brexit secretary David Davis (6 per cent) were seen to be the most supportive of small businesses, although nearly a third (32 per cent) of SME owners in Yorkshire and the Humber felt no current leading political figure would act in their business’ interests.”

Adam Harper, the director of strategy and professional standards at AAT, said: “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.”