The latest Business West survey of its member companies in Bristol, Bath, Gloucestershire, Swindon & Wiltshire spells out a stark warning for the government if it follows a ‘hard’ Brexit path in their EU negotiations.
Phil Smith, managing director of Business West, said:
“It is clear from our most recent findings in this latest survey of our members in the South West that a ‘hard ‘Brexit could spell disaster.
“This would be not only for our members here in the South West but for UK competitiveness as a whole.
“There can be no doubt that Brexit does indeed mean Brexit. However, the quick and decisive leadership demonstrated by the Prime Minister in the political realm has not yet been extended to business and the economy.”
Business West’s latest EU-focused survey ran for the first three weeks of September and had 535 respondents from a diverse range of business sectors (40% services,40% manufacturing, 20% other), and 97% of these were SMEs- small and medium size businesses.
“We are confident this is one of the largest detailed EU surveys of UK small businesses currently available,” said Phil Smith.
When asked about negotiating priorities for the UK to raise with the EU, the most popular answers were:
1. ‘The ability to trade without additional paperwork’ - 65% of all businesses and 79% of exporters chose this answer.
2. ‘The ability to trade without tariffs’- 63% of all businesses and 76% of exporters chose this answer.
3. ‘Avoiding the requirement to comply with two sets of regulations for selling to the UK and EU markets’- here 58% of all businesses and 71% of exporters chose this answer.
“These answers reveal a strong preference from local companies to somehow remain part of the customs union, which allows businesses to trade freely with minimal bureaucratic barriers across the continent. They also highlight the desire to have some form of UK-EU regulatory co-operation,” commented Phil Smith.
And Business West members felt there are greater levels of uncertainty facing their business following the vote to leave the EU.
Over half of them in the survey said there were ‘moderate’ or ‘strong’ levels of uncertainty across five of the seven available categories: the future immigration status of EU employees (54%); the future health of the UK economy (61%); the future status of EU regulations in the UK (63%); the rules for future trading with EU countries (64%) and the future of the pound (65%).
Phil Smith concluded:
“Representing business in the South West and growing the economy in this region is our business, and our message to the government is clear from our survey. It is this: “Listen to the facts and listen to the businesses trying to manage their way through this minefield.”
Business West is England’s largest Chamber of Commerce and a business leadership organisation serving 21,000 members and businesses throughout Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Swindon, Bristol, and Bath.