With the announcement of Thursday 23 June as the date for the EU referendum vote, decision time is fast approaching for small business owners to cast their votes alongside the British public. But the truth is that the market cannot decide whether Europe is good for business or not.
Small business owners across the country are divided over the referendum, and are asking themselves if it would be better to continue to work within the restrictions that the EU impose upon us, or to face the inevitable upheaval that the Brexit will cause.
What the FSB say
In a recent poll conducted by the Federation of Small Business (FSB), it was found that:
Overall, 41.3% of FSB members expect a UK withdrawal from the EU to have a negative impact on
their business. This is compared to 33.6% who expect that a UK withdrawal from the EU would have no impact and 17.2% who expect a positive impact on their business.
When asked about remaining in the EU, over a third (37.7%) believe that remaining in the EU would have no impact on their business, with 35.4% expecting a positive impact and 20.3% expecting it would have a negative impact on their business.
Potential withdrawal from the EU is felt to have a significantly more negative impact by FSB members who rely on EU exports (68.8%), employ non-UK EU nationals (58.9%) and rely on EU imports (57.1%). Looking at their location, FSB members in Scotland (53.6%), London (50.7%), Northern Ireland (50.0%) and Wales (46.0%) were mostly likely to perceive that withdrawal from the EU would have a negative impact.
Source: FSB report
In a recent YouGov poll the results pointed to a vote in favour of Brexit from the general public, which has raised alarm among City economists. Those who believe we would be better off staying within Europe have predicted a devastating impact if we actually left, suggesting everything from mass unemployment, poor economic growth and lower investments from abroad.
However, despite the fact that big business has a vested interest in staying in the EU, for SMEs it could be a very different picture indeed. Leaving the EU would free up the UK economy and stand-alone businesses will gain with less red tape for employers, and savings for tax payers, being predicted. There would be more control over trade deals for business without EU restrictions, is one of the main arguments coming from the Leave the EU camp.
Before anyone that is undecided can decide on the matter, there are lots of economic questions to be answered by the powers that be. The next few months will be buzzing with the in/out debate, and there is a lot to consider before coming to your final decision. One question being asked at the moment is – has David Cameron actually done enough to secure a YES vote? Critics are saying that what he secured does absolutely nothing for the average working person, but what about small business owners?
Polls are useful for learning the average mood of the public, but as we know all too well from the last election, polls can not be a reliable means of predicting an outcome. Plus you have to factor in peoples personal feelings about the politicians leading the in/out campaigns.
Siding with a politician that you despise may seem like a step to far for many, and I have seen this in action already on some forums I am a member of. I have seen members state that they could never vote for anything that a certain MP is backing, regardless of whether they themselves could actually see some benefit from it in the end. These comments are coming mostly from sole traders, entrepreneurs and small business owners I might add.
In or Out? You decide….
For many SMEs who trade in Europe, leaving the EU will probably mean the renegotiation of trade agreements and deals, which will almost certainly have cost implications. When you consider that nearly half of all of our exports go to Europe, could leaving the EU also put jobs in jeopardy?
On the other hand, staying in the EU and pandering to the unaccountable, unelected Brussels elite will mean that as a country we could be less competitive within the rising Asian market. It will also mean that smaller UK producers will no longer be subjected to the ever-changing EU rules about food labelling, which can be costly to amend for a small business.
Many SMEs see the EU as an outdated institute that was devised and established long before the rise of the internet and digital trading. We no longer need to be geographically close to our customers to build trade links, and many consider it as irrelevant for 21st century business.
So, where do you stand on the EU referendum? Have you made up your mind yet?