Brexit: small firms find it difficult to plan

Brexit Insights
By Christine O’Neill, CA magazine

17 April 2017

Christine O’Neill says lack of information is not making it easy for businesses to plan for Brexit.

Brodies has been keen to collaborate with ICAS in creating the Brexit Tracker – which aims to follow changes in business confidence and business planning during the progress of the UK’s negotiations with the EU on Brexit. 

We believe it will be a useful monitor of the state of readiness of ICAS members (and the wider business community) for the new constitutional and legal settlement.

The results of the first Brexit Tracker

We were not at all surprised to see the emphasis placed by larger organisations on the importance of recruitment from the EU – an issue which outranked even a free trade deal with the EU in their list of priorities.

Maintain free movement of workers

The desire to maintain free movement of workers has been a consistent theme for clients who have engaged with us since the referendum result last June. They have, of course, been giving thought to the long-term impact of possible new restrictions on access to an EU-wide workforce but the focus has been on much more immediate concerns.

A number of clients have asked for practical advice and support in assisting colleagues who are EU nationals living and working in the UK – with an increase in enquiries following media coverage of some high-profile cases in which long-time residents appear to have been denied “permanent residence” in the UK. The other side of the coin is the desire by clients to understand how Brexit will affect their right to send UK staff to offices elsewhere in the EU.

Businesses in a state of limbo

More generally, the survey results suggest that many businesses continue to feel that they are, as one respondent put it, in a state of “limbo”. The relatively low level of activity reported by smaller organisations in planning for Brexit – compared with larger organisations – may reflect not only a resource gap but ongoing uncertainty about the UK’s negotiating position and the likely response of EU partners to the UK’s priorities.

It is understandably difficult to plan when there is little concrete information on the shape of a new deal with the EU (and indeed with other countries around the globe). We would expect that, as the negotiations progress, future Brexit trackers will show a shift in the level of business planning in all organisations that respond to the survey.

Finally, it is interesting to see the different views expressed on the greater desirability of remaining in the single market rather than achieving a free trade deal with the EU. The difference between these two outcomes is not, in our experience, widely understood.

Read the full article in the April 2017 edition of CA magazine


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