The Prime Minister famously said that “Brexit means Brexit”. But what does that mean for small businesses? In a speech in January, Theresa May offered a bit more detail: namely, exiting the single market and some form of new relationship with the customs union, as well as commenting on future free trade deals with overseas markets.
FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry responded to the Prime Minister’s 12-point plan, saying: “We wanted to see the Prime Minister begin to sketch out a ‘pro-business Brexit’ by addressing trade, talent and transitional arrangements. Our members want to see this bold and ambitious free trade agreement so that they can continue to trade and operate within European markets. However, we will push the Government to guarantee whatever transition process is put in place ensures there is no cliff edge or gap in trade.”
“We took the business over in late 2009. It is an 11-bedroom hotel and restaurant in the Highlands.
If the pound is weaker it does potentially encourage tourism from anywhere abroad. There is some evidence to suggest that across the UK there has been more interest. We have noticed some ‘freer’ spending from the West European travellers, such as buying a nicer wine or an extra glass.
Moving from freedom of movement for EU/EEA nationals to, for example, a work permit-based system is probably my biggest concern. While we have a high proportion of UK staff, our industry does rely heavily on other EU nationals. Recruitment is already difficult for us, partly owing to our location, so it’s important for us to be able to widen the pool from abroad. A reduction in regulatory burden following Brexit would be welcome. So I would not wish the employment of EU nationals to become a burden with new paperwork.
“I established The Accountancy Partnership in 2008, providing services for more than 3,000 businesses in the UK and abroad, before recently launching pandle.co.uk – free cloud-based accounting software for small businesses.
I was initially concerned that we’d lose a lot of our EU clients if Britain voted to leave. However, since the referendum we haven’t lost a single one.
Since then I have done some research into our clients and found that most of them are remote, technology-based, and aren’t reliant on exports and imports. For the most part it seems that they want to take advantage of the benefits of being a UK business, as it carries a low cost to start up, and has one of the lowest corporation tax rates in the world. For this reason I doubt that we’ll lose many clients following Brexit.
On the specifics of Brexit, I’m not particularly concerned about freedom of movement as we have only UK offices. We did have discussions with a client that was looking where to position its EU business, and it ended up choosing Germany, but this was a one-off case. Many of our clients have multiple bank accounts across multiple currencies, and are now keeping more euros and dollars as the pound has been weakened.”
“My Nametags makes iron-on and sticker nametags for children’s clothes and equipment. I founded the business in 2004, and we sell nametags to more than 60 countries. We have websites in five other EU countries. We take orders on these websites, produce the nametags in the UK, and then post the products to the customers.
We find it easy to produce in the UK and post an order to Paris. There is a risk that Brexit would make it more work and more expensive to sell these products from the UK. We might consider setting up a legal entity or a production site inside the EU.
To sell into the other EU countries, we have hired EU nationals, particularly for customer service and marketing functions. All these individuals are employed and pay taxes in the UK. We hope there will be no problems keeping staff post-Brexit.
We also sell to about 45 countries outside the EU, and this will continue. New trade agreements could lower the duties or reporting requirements for selling to these countries. While we would prefer to stay inside the single market, I am sure we will be OK even if we have to leave. I hope the UK Government would keep a non-tariff and non-administrative export climate, particularly with the EU.
As a Norwegian living in the UK for more than 20 years, I am confident that the UK’s sensible approach to supporting business will continue.”
Whitehead-Ross Education and Consulting (WREC) is an education and social welfare business based in Neath, South Wales.
When I started the business five years ago I received a £6,000 graduate business start-up grant and mentoring, funded by the European Regional Development Fund. I would like to see the future of similar schemes safeguarded. The return to the taxpayer pays off through supporting young entrepreneurs.
According to the Welsh Government, businesses and public and third sector organisations won more than £1.1 billion in contracts to deliver EU projects supported by the Structural Funds programmes between 2007 and 2013.