SMEs are backing the Remain campaign, new data from Close Brothers reveals, but only by a small minority and with many firms still undecided. The research suggests that with just weeks remaining until Britons vote on continued membership of the EU, campaigners for and against Brexit still have much to play for.
44% of SME owners and managers say they do not want the UK to leave the European Union, against 39% who support Brexit. Crucially, however, 17% of respondents said they are unsure about which way to vote in next month’s referendum, leaving plenty of room for either side to take a decisive lead.
The close nature of the debate reflects uncertainty about the impact Brexit would have on many businesses – 34% of firms say leaving the EU would have a positive effect on their business, but exactly the same number say the impact would be negative. 32% say they’re not sure what the effect would be.
David Thomson, CEO of Close Brothers Invoice Finance said “It is very clear that the debate over Brexit remains close and extremely finely balanced. The level of uncertainty about the impact of the UK leaving the EU has left many business owners and managers unsure about how to vote in the referendum. Campaigners for both sides will need to make powerful arguments over the next few weeks in order to convince leaders in the SME sector to join them.”
This comes after the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) identified that thousands of small businesses still do not feel informed about the EU referendum, and therefore called on both EU referendum campaign groups to answer questions for small business owners in order to help them make the right choice for them and their business.
Amongst those SMEs in favour of Brexit, 34% believe they would experience faster growth with reduced regulation and red tape, while 33% anticipate either reduced import costs for raw materials or increased export opportunities. In contrast, amongst those against the UK leaving the EU, 38% worry about the increased costs associated with trading in Europe, while 36% fear reduced export opportunities.
“The impact of Brexit would vary from business to business, depending on the specific nature of their trade,” added Thomson. “There are both risks and opportunities for SMEs whatever the outcome of the referendum, but business owners and managers must now weigh up these difficult issues in order to decide where the balance lies for them. Either way, it is vital that firms are sufficiently well-funded to weather any potential storms. Alternative forms of funding, such as invoice finance, are ideal for offering the flexibility required during a period of economic volatility.”