Nearly six in ten (57%) small business leaders have described confusion surrounding regulations as the main reason they are not expanding overseas, according to new research.

The study, conducted by conference call provider PowWowNow, found that a lack of understanding is a bigger problem for start-ups (57%) than their experienced SMEs (40%).

A lack of knowledge about local markets comes in as the next biggest barrier to global growth, regarded as an issue for four in ten SMEs, while other key pain points included lack of expertise (21%) and a lack of trust in local contacts (23%).

Meanwhile, a quarter (25%) of UK SMEs believe Brexit to be significant in preventing them from growing. Larger SMEs are more concerned about the long-term implications of Brexit on their expansion, with 40% deeming it a pain point, next to only 19% of startups.

Looking at our European neighbours, the survey finds the French have the best understanding of international regulations, with less than a quarter (23%) citing this as a barrier to growth. The Germans reveal the least knowledge about local markets: 43% perceive this to be a problem when seeking to scale.

Andrew Johnson, managing director at PowWowNow, said: “It’s evident from this research that UK SMEs are not confident about international expansion- scaling overseas can be a daunting prospect for many, but it also represents a huge opportunity for growth. Clearly there is room for more support for SMEs if UK businesses are to stay on a path to success.

“The fact that a shocking quarter of SMEs are worried about the effects of Brexit also highlights the detrimental implications economic uncertainty is having on UK productivity. While we await clarity on the reality of the UK’s exit from the EU, businesses will need to look at ways they can cut costs and boost profit margins- from the simple act of bringing in flexible working to reduce office space, to considering strategies for entering new markets.”