Skip to main content

Article 50: uncertainty the order of the day for UK SMEs

Article 50

 

Only 1 in 4 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,” said Neil Davies, CEO, Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing. “In that category of respondents the figure falls to only 19%, which is indicative of how little people really know about Article 50 and its potential impact.”

Business impact 

Over half (52%) of businesses were ‘unsure’ whether the triggering of Article 50 would have any measurable effect on their business; 21% felt it would while the remaining 27% said ‘no’. 

“In the absence of any certainty, business owners are left with no choice but to adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach,” said Neil. “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% - are of the opinion that the triggering of Article 50 will lead to the break-up of the UK, with Scotland (53%) and the Republic of Ireland (61%) 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,” said Neil. “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.”   

 

Yes

No

Republic of Ireland

61%

40%

Scotland

53%

47%

Wales

46%

54%

Greater London

42%

58%

West Midlands

40%

60%

Yorkshire/Humberside

39%

61%

East Midlands

39%

61%

East Anglia

38%

62%

SW England

35%

65%

NE England

34%

66%

SE England

33%

67%

Northern Ireland

33%

67%

NW England

25%

75%

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% answering ‘more’ and 51% 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,” continued Neil. “Triggering Article 50 on its own does not seem to have brought the clarity many were hoping for.”