Nearly one-third third of UK SMEs (31%) want a new government that would reverse the Brexit decision, according to new research from Hitachi Capital Business Finance.
The survey, carried out before the election, asked more than 1,000 owners and directors of small and medium sized enterprises nationwide which policies a new government could enact to help their businesses grow.
In Wales, where the majority of voters (53%) opted to leave the European Union in last year’s referendum, the proportion of business owners wanting to reverse the decision was 36% - the highest outside of London, where 41% of SMEs cancel Brexit.
The proportion in Scotland was similarly high (36%), although their top priority from the list of options was a clear and final position on Scottish Independence – an issue for 49% of business owners.
The results showed a correlation between the desire to reverse the Brexit decision and a business’ outlook for the next three months.
Among SMEs predicting decline or struggling to survive, 45% said they wanted a government that would reverse the Brexit decision, compared with 27% among those predicting growth.
This reflects previous research from Hitachi Capital at the beginning of 2017 which found that 61% of SMEs expecting decline said there were no opportunities for their business as a result of the UK leaving the EU, compared with 33% predicting growth.
Overall, while Brexit prompted strong opinions amongst survey respondents, other traditional demands took priority including a reduction of red tape (40%) and lower taxes (35%).
Red tape reduction was a top three wish for every sector in the survey, peaking in the agriculture sector where it was a priority for 70% of business owners.
Gavin Wraith-Carter, managing director at Hitachi Capital Business Finance, said: “In recent years, our research has shown SMEs to have a bullish resilience and their business confidence has not been adversely swayed by external events such as the Scottish or EU referendums or general elections.
“The latest view from SMEs on Europe is a reminder to whoever forms the next government that many SMEs value an era where British small businesses can have a positive working relationship with Europe rather than a confrontational one. This perhaps offers a clue on the kind of leadership small businesses would like to see in how the EU exit negotiations are conducted.”
The survey comes as the UK undergoes a period of uncertainty following the election, as the ruling Conservative Party failed to defend its majority in Parliament, leading to ongoing negotiations about who will form the next government.
Policies SMEs want from a new government to help their businesses grow
|Simplify regulation and red tape||40%|
|Reverse the decision on Brexit||31%|
|Strong leadership on managing the UK's exit from the EU||29%|
|Keep interest rates on hold||27%|
|Negotiate favourable trade deals beyond the EU||24%|
Encourage banks to lend to more small businesses
|Abolish recent changes to business rates||20%|
|Clamp down on cyber crime||17%|
|More grants and investments in our sector||16%|
|Improve access to finance||13%|
|Greater rewards and incentives for environmentally friendly initiatives||13%|
|Greater support with apprenticeships/ training||12%|
|A clear and final position on Scottish independence||12%|