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The Brexit scales barely tilt in favour of Leave or Remain

5 min read

15 September 2017

Never has there been a more divided topic than Brexit. The likes of James Dyson call for a “clean break”, while JD Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin deems it a risk. These opposing forces have even been likened with the Skywalkers – Dyson taking the place of Luke and Martin replacing Vader.

The two Brexit sides have garnered spokespeople of sorts, but they each have an equal following, as was revealed by Hiscox.

Within the DNA of an Entrepreneur Report, it rounded up responses from 4,000 small business owners and senior managers across France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, US and Spain – assessing the health of the business landscape was the end game.

What it found in terms of the Brexit debate, however, was that the scales barely tilted in favour of one option. Some 16 per cent of overall respondents deemed it negative, while 14 per cent saw leaving the EU in a positive light. It contrasts last year’s results, where an overwhelming majority thought the move a bad one. No surprise that those from the UK have a stronger opinion on the matter.

But oddly enough, the country feeling the brunt of Brexit is Spain – and the US is reaping the benefits.

Brexit impact (%)

Brexit impact (%)

In the remain camp is Heritage Angel’s Carolyn Lloyd Brown, who took part in the Hiscox survey. The company creates “visitor experiences”, what she calls “those memorable days out with family and friends”, by consulting with tourist attractions – and she stressed how a seismic shift had taken place.

“Brexit was a total disaster,” she said. “There was so much crucial European co-operation, so many pan-European projects and funding streams. I know people who had projects cancelled within one week of the vote. I genuinely believe it was one of the worst events ever to happen in my lifetime and I believe that the negative effects will be felt for many years to come. It has even affected my thinking and forward planning in terms of marketplace and growth areas.”

Almost 90 per cent of Heritage Angel’s turnover is UK-based. Now it’s the other way round, with the bulk of her work in China. When uncertainty hit Britain, Brown made a point of pursuing opportunities outside of Europe – and started working with a country known for its interest in the UK’s heritage.

Carolyn Lloyd Brown of Heritage Angel

Carolyn Lloyd Brown of Heritage Angel

“I sought collaboration with another UK-based company that was well established in China, working on a wide range of exciting cultural projects.

“I was fortunate to have this chance and, after working on several projects successfully in the last year, have taken the decision to concentrate mainly on projects in China for the foreseeable future.”

“We should endeavour to rapidly find a pragmatic, practical solution to the uncertainty that the vote has meant for all businesses and doubtless larger institutions. The energy and huge resources that we are having to put into the Brexit negotiations could be far better spent on other much-needed areas.”

Her thoughts echo the sentiment of her fellow respondents. Regardless of size, UK companies are nearly twice as concerned about costs than exporting, 56 per cent and 30 per cent respectively. France and Spain, on the other hand, feel more threatened by what impact it could have on exports.

Strangely, a love of Brexit comes hand-in-hand with corporation size. The larger the company, Hiscox revealed, the more likely it viewed Brexit as an opportunity. Those small in size often held little enthusiasm for the topic. Scottish firms were found to be the most anti-Brexit, and those with the strongest feelings – be they positive or negative – came from London.

Another study participant, Rosalind Platt, owner of Billericay Fertiliser Services, has seen how it impacts those buying her crop nutrition products. The concept behind her offering comes in a liquid format compared to the more traditional solid alternative.

BFS Fertiliser Services owner Rosalind Platt

BFS Fertiliser Services owner Rosalind Platt

“Farmers are changing their practices and trying to be more creative, as their incomes come increasingly under threat” said Platt. “They are particularly nervous about the likely loss of subsidy after Brexit.”

This is perhaps why the UK lacks the confidence shown by the other survey nations. In fact, business confidence has dropped from 60 per cent to 55 per cent. On the other hand, the seven out of ten companies within the US, France, Spain and the Netherlands, cited an increase in optimism.