Brexit has been a divisive issue, to say the least. The past eight years have seen rigorous debate over the merits and demerits of divorce from the European Union, but the past few years have shown Brexit’s results to be in line with some of the more negative predictions put forth by ‘Remainers’. Brexit has caused damage in multiple areas, and businesses – despite business owners often leaning towards ‘Leave’ – have born the brunt. This has been borne out by the results of a recent poll, demonstrating the deleterious impacts of Brexit.
The poll, undertaken by the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC), canvassed opinions from over 1,100 businesses across the UK – the majority of which were small-to-medium enterprises, or SMEs. The poll’s general findings revealed that 77% of respondents had not seen any active growth or improvements to turnover since the Brexit agreement came into force in recent times.
However, more damning data emerged from the survey, in the form of businesses reporting active growth or financial benefits from the UK’s exit from the EU. The survey found that only 5% of surveyed businesses recognised a material improvement. This vanishingly small percentage illustrates something of an existential crisis for businesses in the UK, and one rendered all the starker against the various promises made by government officials and think tanks regarding Brexit’s business potential for the future.
What exactly, though, are the factors impacting businesses negatively in the aftermath of Brexit? The withdrawal agreement, and subsequent Trade and Co-operation Agreement brought into effect at the end of 2020, cemented Brexit’s form and stature for both the UK and the EU – introducing new restrictions and legal frameworks regarding trade between the UK and the EU trading bloc.
For starters, importing goods has become more expensive. Not only are prices higher than before Brexit, but the administrative hurdles are far greater; many reports have emerged since the Agreement came into force of needless bureaucracy, new friction to trade and the spoiling of goods as a result. There are regulatory complications, too, which have made international business dealings more complex – and reduced business activity from international clients.
Furthermore, exporting to the EU has become more difficult for many businesses. Exporting to the EU today means going through more checks than before for many businesses and therefore, this can inflate the price of goods out of reach of EU customers budgets.
None of this means that succeeding as a business post-Brexit is impossible, though. Legal and accounting guidance can assist businesses in retaining and gaining new international clients while remaining compliant with new regulations; appetite also remains for products across industries, despite wider economic problems.
Indeed, navigating Brexit is eminently possible, if somewhat complex. There are unique opportunities for businesses to profit more from exporting, but this isn’t viable – as discovered by the BCC poll – for the vast majority of businesses. As such, making existing restrictions work becomes a matter of survival as opposed to growth; businesses must change their priorities in the medium term.