News

Ignoring wishes of business, British voters opt to leave

2 min read

24 June 2016

The British public have expressed a clear wish to leave the European Union, despite warnings from economists that such a decision could wreak havoc on the business climate.

When the final results were announced at 7.22am on 24 June 2016, the Leave campaign achieved a four percentage point lead. 

In response to the news, the pound has fallen more dramatically than recorded in recent history, in a ten per cent decline of a greater magnitude than that seen on the day the UK was forced to drop out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992.

A few days before the referendum, nearly 1,300 business leaders signed a document backing the UK’s membership of the EU. According to the Remain campaign, the companies on the list account for 1.75m staff. On 21 June, three leading British economic institutions issued a warning that Britain would “almost certainly” be worse off outside the EU.

Responding to the news, business groups called for a swift government response to calm market jitters and create certainty for SME leaders.

“Today we call on the government and the Bank of England to urgently put in place measures to prevent any further instability negatively impacting small businesses in the UK. Small firms need to know what this means for access to the single market as soon as possible,” said Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

“Whilst we know a majority of our clients favoured remaining in the EU and leading into the vote, many felt there was still a marked lack of qualified information on what the impact of a vote to leave would have on UK businesses,” said Grant Thornton chief operating officer Robert Hannah.

“The important thing now is to focus on the future and building a strong and vibrant UK economy outside the EU.”

“After initial market volatility, we can expect a period of instability and uncertainty. It is important to bear in mind that very little changes immediately, so businesses should stay calm, review their contingency plans and start considering the mid-long term opportunities whilst the dust settles. 

“Organisations need to assess the risks to their business and develop strategies which mitigate these, or indeed, capitalise on new opportunities.”

Responses from some of Britain’s leading entrepreneurs have been less measured, with Dragons’ Den judge Deborah Meaden simply tweeting: “Oh no.”