Many UK small businesses have had a tumultuous time since the EU referendum result, despite only 43% of owners and decision-makers of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) voting to leave the EU.
The latest Zurich SME Risk Index results revealed that anxieties about leaving the EU persist in their survey of over 1,000 SMEs. Less than 3 months on from the vote, almost a quarter of SMEs (22%) already feel that the devaluation of the pound has hindered their business, and over half (57%) are now primarily concerned about the effect of Britain’s official withdrawal from the EU on foreign currency and exchange rates. This anxiety may be due to the knock-on effect of a weak sterling on import and export conditions; the second greatest concern amongst SMEs post-referendum (46%).
International trade talks have grabbed the headlines in recent weeks, and this has been keenly felt in the SME community, with almost half stating that international trade risks, including sanctions and regulation, were a key concern for their businesses (44%).
SMEs have, however, shown confidence that Theresa May can deliver on the international stage, with more than three times as many business owners indicating that her appointment as Prime Minister will have a positive impact on the success of their business (25%) rather than a negative one (8%).
Statistics suggest that, above all else, SMEs crave certainty in the business environment, following the decision to Leave. If asked to vote in the EU Referendum again, slightly more SMEs would vote for a Remain decision now (55%) than before (54%), yet more than half of SMEs stated that they oppose calls for a second EU referendum, regardless (52%).
Anne Griffiths, head of SME proposition at Zurich, comments:
“Amid concerns over currency fluctuation, import and export conditions, and international trade talks, SMEs appear to be showing confidence in the new Prime Minister to deliver stability in uncertain times.
“Statistics suggest a worrying uplift in concern about business risk among SMEs, which hit two year highs earlier this year. While business conditions remain uncertain, it is vital that the interests of UK SMEs remain represented on the world stage, and that British business leaders receive the support they need to continue to function as the backbone of the UK economy.”