After a long and at sometimes acrimonious campaign on both sides of the argument, the Forum of Private Business has responded to today’s decision to leave the EU with an urgent request for the government to take immediate action to support SMEs, and address the many issues and concerns that they have raised during the referendum campaign.
Since the request was made shortly after the vote this morning, the UK-focused FTSE 250 is down 8% in early afternoon trading; the FTSE 100 index began the day by falling more than 8%, then regained some ground to stand 4% lower. Earlier, the pound fell dramatically by more than 10%, a low not seen since 1985.
“Politicians now no longer have the excuse of EU interference and need to act quickly and effectively to offset what as most economists believe will be a period of uncertainty. This means the UK’s 1.3 million employers will need support in managing this period of disruption if it is to continue to drive the British economy” explained Ian Cass, Managing Director of the Forum of Private Business.
Ian stated: “Our feedback suggests that a majority of business owners, even those involved in international trade supported the leave campaign as a way of freeing them from red tape that was imposed on them. We need an accelerated deregulation programme – vague promises of £10 billion cuts are no longer acceptable – and a beefed up skills programme so that UK workers have the skills needed by local employers”.
“However the clock is ticking, we have 2 years to extricate ourselves from the EU and cannot afford for any petty political squabbling within government. There is plenty of work that needs to be done as the economy effectively needs to be rebased around small firms and trade agreements needs to be negotiated”.
“Politicians now no longer have the excuse of EU interference and need to act quickly and effectively to offset what as most economists believe will be a period of uncertainty.”
Not all business owners are happy with the decision, Ed Salt, Managing Director of Delamere Dairies responded to the decision with disappointment, “As a co-owner of a business who relies on international trade and the benefits the EU brings to both the British economy and our agricultural sector, I am hugely disappointed that the UK has voted to leave the EU. A stable economy is vital to the future growth of the country and I am fearfully of what the future might hold, not only for the British economy and our world standings but of course Delamere Dairy”.
In contrast Owen Charnley, Owner of Pathway to Solutions was more upbeat:
“I have had to look into this in great detail and either side appeared to be a step into the unknown and while I respect the benefits the EU has bestowed on us in the past, past performance is no guarantee of future success. The union seemed to be taking us away from its fundamental reason for existence, becoming a remote legislative body and as the reforms were only going to be introduced after the vote, I feel that reform from within the EU would have been difficult.”
The voting division between the north and south of in England, particularly London’s overwhelming vote to Remain, is one which has been particularly noted by business leaders, and the Forum feels this highlights the need to take more positive action rather than just words on the part of the government. Comments earlier today focused on the possibility of moving operations away from London and into other large cities, in a bid to proactively devolve both private and government operations more evenly across the UK.
In his concluding remarks, Ian stated “the UK has made its decision and we can now move forward from this historic event in a positive and proactive manner. Small business must play its part, but what is clear is that we need some fresh and innovative thinking to ensure that Britain’s small businesses continue to innovate, grow and increase their productivity something the Forum and its members will fully engage with.”