How would a Brexit affect SMEs’ export according to their decision makers?

Overall observations on the YouGov study

We can see evidence that the more mature and experienced the respondent, the more likely it is they’ll see Europe as a positive environment for exporting. Exporting is also generally not as relevant for those in the first year of trading, which is understandable. When these SMEs expand though it’s likely this will change. Bigger companies tend to have more positive attitudes towards exporting in Europe. 

The reality is most companies will go where the money is – but this doesn’t mean bosses don’t have contradictory personal political views.

Legal/regulation issues as a barrier to exporting products/services abroad

I’m not surprised by these feelings, in fact through previous research I have conducted into regulations I found that nearly any business person in most circumstances would always point to these issues. Digging deeper though I have also noticed over the years that “regulations” can sometimes be a “moan factor” – in some circumstances regulations aren’t always that tough but businesses still tend to lament them.

The same applies when it comes to hiring staff from outside the UK – many feel that regulations are a barrier even when it comes to hiring within the EU, however sometimes this is not always the case.

“Exporting is Great” campaign has proved to be unsuccessful

I have to admit I also hadn’t previously heard of the government’s Exporting is Great campaign. In my experience, government and local authorities don’t spend enough time advertising and communicating these types of schemes even though I’m sure it would be said otherwise. One would imagine that the respondents of this YouGov survey are part of the intended audience for this campaign which is somewhat damning.

One of the reasons why this campaign may not be as successful is because with these types of campaigns and initiatives there are often things that companies have to do to in order to take part. For example, filling out forms or divulging sensitive information. In my experience, government initiatives can be intrusive and time consuming.

Medium sized enterprises are more likely to have heard about the Exporting is Great campaign.

Europe as a profitable region for UK SMEs to export to

Having 64 per cent of respondents saying that Europe is/would be the most profitable region for UK SMEs to export products/ services to is a really strong response, which underlines the points set out by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and similar pro-EU business lobbying organisations. This is also a strong endorsement for the EU despite other responses that are somewhat more ambiguous or negative.

Once again, SME decision makers in Scotland had some of the most positive opinions when it comes to the EU. This often comes up in media accounts of Scotland, as having a more positive view of the EU is a significant part of their political orientation. Scotland often sees things differently; Scotland’s national identity is steeped in having their own desires and views for the future of the country.

Read more to find out how SMEs view the global stage.

Image: Shutterstock

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