A year after the Brexit referendum, the AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) has surveyed small business owners (who were evenly split on the issue of whether to leave or remain) on their feelings towards Brexit now.
All Quiet on the Western Front
AAT’s survey of 800 small business owners from a wide range of industries and sectors showed that for many, the Brexit decision had had little impact at all so far.
42% of respondents said that the decision to leave the EU had made neither a positive nor negative impact on their business, while 18% said it had made no impact whatsoever.
Respondents were slightly more positive (22%) than negative (18%) about the current impact of the Leave decision on their business. So, what factors are making SME owners positive? Some of the reasons given were:
- An increased optimism and confidence for the future
- the devaluation of the pound, which had helped some owners who pay workers in other currencies
The concerns of those who view the decision as a negative influence on their business included:
- the weakness of sterling
- a reduced ability to recruit talent from the EU
While some polls have showed a proportion of leavers would now vote Remain, the AAT survey found that 7% of the respondents who voted remain would now vote leave. Why? AAT quotes one owner’s reason: “It is now clear that the EU is falling apart regardless, and the UK is best out of it soonest.”
Only 3% of the leave voters said they would now vote remain. One SME owner explained this was because “we weren’t told what would happen if we voted to leave. Now it’s obvious, and I think we would work to change it from the inside.”
Is the Brexit Future Bright for Business?
When asked about the final outcome of Brexit and its effect on business, 40% of respondents believed Brexit would ultimately be a success, 36% were pessimistic about it. A further 20% said they were neutral about Brexit’s chances, while 5% said they didn’t know.
As to their hopes for the future of their businesses, SME owners were quite evenly split.
- 26% believed Brexit would ultimately have a positive impact on their business
- 24% felt it would have a negative impact
- 26 % felt it would have neither a positive or negative impact
- 18% believed Brexit would have no impact whatsoever.
When asked about their faith in politicians, 26% felt Prime Minister Theresa May was the leader most likely act in the best interests of their business. However, a close 23% of respondents named Jeremy Corbyn as the leader who would be best for their business.
David Davis (7%) and returning Liberal Democrat MP Vince Cable (5%) were viewed as the most supportive of small businesses. But 28% of SME owners said they didn’t feel any of the ten prominent politicians suggested in the survey would act in their business’ interests.
It seems that whatever their referendum vote and Brexit beliefs, small business owners have a decreasing faith in the ability of politicians to look after their interests.