As Britain starts the official process of leaving the EU today (Wed), Gloucestershire companies are becoming increasingly worried about Brexit.
This pessimism comes with the publication today by Business West of its Local Business Survey for the first quarter of this year.
The survey provides an exclusive snapshot of business sentiment and activity in the immediate run-up today to the triggering of Article 50 by the Prime Minister.
Business West surveyed 419 businesses across the South West-mostly SMEs-with 80 of those companies in Gloucestershire.
The main findings are:
There are major concern over leaving the EU’s single market and customs union:
- 51% of businesses surveyed view the prospect of leaving the single market as “negative” or “very negative” compared with 19% who see it as “positive” or “very positive”
- 51% view the prospect of leaving the customs union as “negative” or “very negative” while only 14% view it as “positive” or “very positive"
Ian Mean, Director of Business West for Gloucestershire said:
“This is a very significant survey for business in Gloucestershire on the day that the Prime Minister triggers our exit from the EU.
“For the first time we are getting a real indication from small and medium size businesses-the SMEs-which drive the economy of Gloucestershire and the country- that they have some really deep rooted concerns about Brexit.
“Despite the confidence of the government’s Brexit ministers, companies here in Gloucestershire just do not share that enthusiasm for the EU exit.
“For over 50% of businesses to believe that leaving the single market and the customs union is not a good Brexit omen for the future confidence of these companies.
“We are going into a two year period of uncertainty while the government negotiates the most difficult set of business negotiations in post-War Britain.
“Business West, which represents Chamber of Commerce members throughout Gloucestershire, fully understands that the Brexit negotiations must be confidential to get the best deal for Britain.
“However, our businesses must be given the confidence to export and be given advice on how to prepare for increased customs paperwork and procedures.
“What is extremely worrying to us is that 79% of the companies we surveyed are not currently taking any specific measures to prepare for Brexit at all.
“We think the survey underlines the urgency of the need for the government to ensure that business is not left in limbo for the next two years while negotiations go on behind closed doors in Brussels.”
Commenting on the survey’s findings, James Monk, International Trade Director at Business West said:
“We fully recognise that South West businesses are finding it incredibly difficult to plan for a future outside of the EU.
“Never has the maxim ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ ever been as relevant to businesses as it is now, and exiting the EU may well have a significant impact on exporters.
“But at the moment the pound is weak and there are limited trade restrictions on trading with Europe, so now would be a good time to start.
“The good news for businesses in the South West is that help and support is on hand from Business West on all aspects of international trade.
“Over the next two years we will continue to work with many government departments – Department for International Trade, HMRC, Department for Exiting the EU – as well as the World Trade Organisation and International Chambers of Commerce.
“In this way we will be able to advise businesses on possible trading scenarios, helping to guide them as information becomes available – sifting the fact from the fake news.”