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Brexit worries top SME agenda

4th May 2016
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The impact of a potential Brexit tops the list of business owner concerns, according to the latest research from accountancy and tax group Smith & Williamson.

Some 81% of respondents to the Smith & Williamson Enterprise Index survey felt that Britain leaving the EU would negatively impact their business, up 13% from June 2015.

Expectations for growth fell by 9%, with Brexit worries and fears around the state of the UK and global economy cited as major concerns.

The Smith & Williamson Enterprise Index, designed to measures the confidence of UK SMEs, fell by four points to 111.4, its lowest point for 12 months.

Commenting on the latest figures Guy Rigby, head of entrepreneurial services at Smith & Williamson, said: “When we first sought business owners’ thoughts on Brexit, the Conservative Party had just been elected and a potential Brexit felt quite remote. However, as we approach the referendum date, business leaders are seemingly more apprehensive about the prospect of leaving the EU.”

There were reasons to be cheerful however, with 80% of respondents stating that their own prospects for the next 12 months had increased over the past quarter, up 5% from the last survey.

“This improvement potentially highlights an entrepreneurial self-belief in spite of broader market headwinds,” said Rigby

“Overall, business owners appear quite confident in their own ability to grow, with 74% anticipating growth (or an acquisition) in the next 12 months. In addition, a record 50% thought that access to funding had improved over the past quarter, despite only 38% having an appetite to borrow.”

Trade expectations down

One area highlighted by the survey centred on export businesses. Those who expected their turnover to increase over the coming year declined 12% from the end of the last quarter. There was also concern around the financial health of trading partners, with only 55% believing their health was improving, a seven point decline from the previous quarter.

On this issue Rigby commented: “This is not supportive of the government’s aspirations to increase UK exports. If this sentiment becomes reality, it could have huge ramifications for future growth.”

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