A year on from Brexit – How do businesses feel?

A year after the British public changed the shape of the world by voting for Brexit, we take a look at how businesses feel it has and will continue to affect them.

One year on since the UK voted to leave the European Union, a new study reveals widespread indifference towards the European Union among non-British national directors at the forefront of British businesses—many of whom have profited from the core principles of the project.

The International Directors Study, commissioned by communications consultancy, Eulogy, is an annual report of the attitudes and business confidence of 200 non-British nationals working as company directors in the UK, spanning an even spread of business sizes – from micro-businesses and SMEs through to large organisations (turnover of more than £500 million).

The study shows a clear majority of respondents (84 per cent) believing that Brexit could result in the disintegration of the EU entirely. Yet four in five (81 per cent) believe that Britain’s departure offers an opportunity for their business; regardless of its consequences on the future health of the trading bloc.

Moreover, the research, which was carried out prior to the recent shock general election result, reveals an upbeat assessment among non-British directors in the government’s ability to ensure Britain’s position for international trade post-Brexit, with over three quarters (82 per cent) reporting confidence in its likelihood of achieving a positive outcome.

More than half (54 per cent) said they expect their revenues to grow in the next 12 months. Moreover, one in every two respondents (49 per cent) strongly disagrees that their company will struggle to attract international talent.
Despite this, more than two thirds (77 per cent), are modernising or plan to modernise their business to attract more talent in the future.

Adrian Brady, chief exec, Eulogy, says, “Understanding the sentiment of non-UK directors not only provides an indication of how the international community views Britain, but highlights the levels of confidence among a group who themselves relocated to Britain off the back of the promise of opportunity and to enhance their career prospects.

“Whilst it’s encouraging that Brexit is being viewed so optimistically by this demographic, all eyes will be on ensuring that negotiations deliver the kind of confident, pro-business environment that has culminated in the UK being one of the most successful, internationally diverse centres in the world for both business leaders and international talent alike.”

Gianpiero Lotito, co-founder and CEO of Italian technology company FacilityLive, says, “In the year since the vote, it remains clear that UK technology companies are a strong force in Europe and so the ecosystem of successful innovation on the continent will continue to bind the European and UK technology scene together. For businesses such as ours, who already have relationships within the UK business and financial services sectors, Brexit may be an opportunity to build stronger collaboration and trade relationships.

“The EU has been working on an initiative called the Digital Single Market. Losing access to this could inhibit the ability of UK technology companies to work seamlessly across Europe. Therefore it is essential that the UK pushes to remain part of the digital single market to ensure economic growth and encourage innovation.”

Markus Kuger, Senior Economist, Dun & Bradstreet adds, “From a business perspective, we predict that uncertainty will remain high in the next 18 months. Given the backdrop of an already slowing economy (the UK posted the lowest real GDP growth of all 28 EU economies in Q1 2017), a recent IOD survey found businesses are expressing an increasing lack of confidence. As Brexit negotiations have only just started, it’s likely that companies will have to wait even longer for any clarity on the type of deal that will be brokered, and the impact for businesses operating in, or with, the UK.

“Businesses would do well to monitor the progress of Brexit negotiations, and use the latest data and analytics to manage risk and identify opportunities. Until the government is firmly in place and Brexit negotiations progress, a measured approach to managing relationships with suppliers, customers and prospects will be essential.”

Lee Murphy, owner of accountancy software Pandle, says, “Since the EU Referendum, we’ve seen a drop in the number of European entrepreneurs who want to start their business here in the UK. With that said, the economy is doing well and that’s fostering a good environment for people to invest in. I’ve been seeing more and more UK residents as well as an increase of non-EU residents choosing to set up shop here, which is an interesting change from the past. As a British business, we’ve even seen an uptick in enquiries coming through.

“One year on from Brexit, I feel there is still a definite feeling of uncertainty within the SME community and for larger-scale businesses. The results of the 2017 General Election have also contributed to this heightened sense of uncertainty. Once negotiations are over, businesses will have a clearer picture of where they stand and what opportunities are available to them. Only then can the economy start to move toward its full potential, even if there are some obstacles and barriers introduced when trading with Europe.”

Owen Gough

Fred Morissette

Owen Gough is a reporter for SmallBusiness.co.uk. He has a background in small business marketing strategies and is responsible for writing content on subjects ranging from small business finance to technology...

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