What might Brexit mean for small businesses and freelancers?

EU BrexitThe decision has been taken – whether you were for remain or for leave, business now has to move forward with Brexit.

The vote to leave the EU has left many shocked, after a campaign when definitive answers were few and genuine facts hard to identify.

Regardless of the hopes that red tape will be lifted and Britain freer to make its own trade agreements, for now the rules stay as they are, and it may be months or years before they change. In the meantime, markets are volatile and finances in a very uncertain place.

Business organisations are already asking for clarity and action to ensure that exports and labour issues for example, are addressed quickly.

So what do they think are the main issues for business as of today? Here are some views about Brexit, expressed to the Guardian Small Business Network

Mike Cherry, national chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)

“Nearly a quarter of FSB members export, with the majority exporting to the single market. Access to the single market means access to 500 million potential consumers, more than 26m businesses and is worth €11tn,” he says.

Ian Cass, managing director of the Forum of Private Business

“We need an accelerated deregulation programme – vague promises of £10bn cuts are no longer acceptable – and a beefed-up skills programme so that UK workers have the skills needed by local employers,”

For freelancers and sole traders there is the possibility that a leave vote will increase opportunities, although this does of course depend on the sector. An author negotiating foreign rights may find business less keen to invest at this time,  but if immigration does go down then skilled workers are at a premium and at a time of uncertainty businesses need the flexibility the self-employed can bring.

Julia Kermode, CEO of the Freelancer and Contractor Services Association:

“We have witnessed in the run up to this referendum that demand for contractors has been high and I see this demand increasing particularly if the rules on immigration tighten up,”

Other business owners, currently employing skilled workers are worried that the pool of talent from which they can draw might have shrunk:

Bhuwan Kaushik, CEO of IT business Spectromax,

“The impact of the Brexit will be sizeable and long term. There’s a huge IT skills gap in the UK and it’s going to take a number of years to close it. Leaving the EU at a time when the UK is in need of skills will be a huge blow to UK businesses, let alone the commercial opportunities that may be lost and could consequently stunt UK startup growth.”

There are also serious questions to be answered about Britain’s role in the tech field, as the possibility of a digital single market fades. Those in manufacturing have concerns about the loss of the single market, which offers access to more than 500 million customers, and the possibility that tariffs and trade barriers may be imposed. Lending might be harder to come by and interest rates higher as the value of the pound falls. Property values might also fall – a concern for those who have just invested in business space.

However, Suzi Woolfson of business advisory and accountancy firm PwC, says:

“We should expect a bumpier economic climate in the short term, but as Mark Carney has commented, we have a resilient UK financial system and the ‘real economy’ will adjust. Private businesses and SMEs are at the heart of the real economy and they are nothing if not resilient, flexible and adaptable. I am confident that they are well equipped to weather the changes.”

But, as the Guardian goes on to say,

…. But entrepreneurs tend to be both optimistic and opportunistic – they rarely wait for macro-economic data before making a decision.

Jim Duffy, CEO of business accelerator Entrepreneurial Spark:

“Entrepreneurs will simply just get on with it and what’s important today is that they continue to focus on planning to ensure that they can navigate any turbulence in the coming days and weeks, while exploiting bigger opportunities in the months and years to come.”

The Guardian Small Business Network is a very useful resource for small and start up businesses. See HERE for full details.

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