Only one in four SME owners in the UK feel that they have a clear understanding of what Article 50 is and what it means for their business, according to results obtained from the Close Brothers Business Barometer, a quarterly survey that questions over 900 UK SME owners and senior management across a range of sectors and regions.
‘Among smaller companies (those with a turnover less than £500k) the lack of understanding is even more acute,’ says Neil Davies, CEO, Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing.
‘In that category of respondents the figure falls to only 19 per cent, which is indicative of how little people really know about Article 50 and its potential impact.’
More than half (52 per cent) of businesses were ‘unsure’ whether the triggering of Article 50 would have any measurable effect on their business; 21 per cent feel it would while the remaining 27 per cent said ‘no’.
‘In the absence of any certainty, business owners are left with no choice but to adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach. In common with a year ago when the Brexit outcome was announced, companies are getting on with their day-to-day activities and hoping for the best outcome.’
Break-up of the UK
A large minority of business owners – 40 per cent – are of the opinion that the triggering of Article 50 will lead to the break-up of the UK, with Scotland (53 per cent) and the Republic of Ireland (61 per cent) being the most convinced.
‘While these results are speculation only, it speaks to the uncertainty about the future of the UK in its current form,’ says Davies.
‘This brings with it concerns about impact to their business, which in turn can lead to caution when making investment and growth decisions, with many deferring until there is more certainty in the market. For now, though, it is something we are all going to have to live with.’
Clarity over Europe?
Businesses were split down the middle when asked ‘do you think triggering Article 50 will bring more or less clarity to our relationship with the EU?’, with 49 per cent answering ‘more’ and 51 per cent saying ‘yes’.
‘For many UK businesses, Europe is a key market, and will continue to be so regardless of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. Triggering Article 50 on its own does not seem to have brought the clarity many were hoping for.’