UK SMEs are concerned about a potential Brexit in 2016

A new survey has found that, despite a high performing year, many SMEs are still preparing themselves for a challenging start to 2016. As the year progresses, the single biggest uncertainty is the possibility of the UK leaving the European Union.


The referendum on whether the UK will stay or leave the EU – the latter possibility having been dubbed a ‘Brexit’ – will take place before the end of 2017. Many commentators think that the vote is more likely to occur at some time in 2016 however. Whenever it does take place, businesses see the uncertainty leading up to the referendum as a problem.


More than a quarter of the senior leaders and owners of SMEs in the UK said that a potential EU exit was their biggest cause for uncertainty over the coming year. 60% of those said that uncertainty about the UK’s continuing membership of the EU was having an impact on their long-term growth plans while 25% said that this “prevents them planning ahead to a significant degree”.


The report from CitySprint, titled Collaborate UK 2015, found that collaboration was a key tool for SMEs looking to survive potential tough times ahead. 85% of small and medium businesses surveyed said they were collaborating with other businesses to drive themselves forward, sharing skills, knowledge and mutual networks. This could help businesses to navigate rocky waters and avoid the sort of trouble that could leave them in need of business rescue assistance.


Despite a relatively strong 2015, SMEs said they expected a tough start to the new year. 88% reported being in better financial health than they were 12 months ago but 32% saw a lack of customer demand as an issue in the months ahead. Around a quarter (23%) of respondents cited increased competition as a major worry and 20% said recruiting suitable staff was a major concern.


Most businesses surveyed said they were looking to grow domestically but worries over the referendum may have been hampering further ambitions, with only around a quarter looking to generate sales in overseas markets.


By Phil Smith


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