With the cut off date for Brexit now less than one year away, the majority of UK SMEs have called for another referendum on whether Britain should accept the deal it is presented with by the government. Reflecting growing uncertainty caused by stalling Brexit negotiations between the UK and EU, the latest confidence index from office space provider Citibase suggested that increasingly, business owners would be prepared to walk away from the EU without a deal. In a survey of 1,100 UK SME decision makers, almost three quarters stated that they now wanted short-term office leases of less than three years. This figure has risen dramatically in the last year. In Q1 2017, just 57 per cent of the quarterly survey’s respondents stated a preference for office space leases of three years or less. The rise in short-term leases is particularly prominent in the North East of England and Scotland, where 90 per cent and 81 per cent of business owners respectively preferred leases of less three years. The index also revealed that 23 per cent of SME owners believe Brexit is having a negative impact on revenue, a figure that grew steadily by 2 per cent each quarter throughout 2017. Meanwhile, 33 per cent of SMEs are preparing for a negative impact on their revenue when Brexit finally happens. Citibase CEO, Steve Jude, said: “The heady combination of stalling Brexit talks, unrest in the government and the suggestion that Britain may be prepared to walk away with no deal at all is causing unrest amongst SMEs. “As a result, we are seeing a significant shift towards flexibility and agility, with nearly three quarters of entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses now shunning longer term, traditional office leases in favour of shorter terms.” The survey also revealed that confidence in the current government’s ability to secure the best Brexit deal possible is dwindling amongst SMEs. Only 33 per cent of respondents claimed to trust the government’s negotiating ability, down two per cent since the end of 2017, and 11 per cent since last summer.
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