With prime minister Theresa May poised to trigger Article 50 and effectively fire the starting gun on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU), there remains a great deal of uncertainty about how the process will unfold and how it might impact British businesses.
SMEs are an essential driver of economic activity and growth in all parts of the UK and certainly across the North West of England and Greater Manchester. Here’s our look at what it might all mean for SMEs in the region.
A key attribute for SMEs is their operational flexibility and their capacity to respond quickly to changes in patterns of demand, whether that’s on a local basis or on a broader national or international scale.
SMEs in Greater Manchester and elsewhere will be hoping that they can steal a march on their larger counterparts in post-Brexit Britain, with big businesses potentially set to find it much more difficult and time consuming to adjust to the new normal.
Confidence remaining high
The results of the referendum vote in June 2016, which set the wheels in motion for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU had an immediate impact on the value of the pound and various other economic factors. But for SMEs, any fallout has seemingly yet to be felt in earnest and 82 per cent said they were in the same or better shape at the turn of the year as they were in early 2016, according to research by CitySprint.
That figure contrasts quite sharply with the view among big businesses, with 58 per cent of the 500 largest UK companies telling Ipsos Mori in February that they had already felt some negative impact as a result of the Brexit vote.
Despite a widespread sense of optimism among SMEs about their prospects as the Brexit process gathers momentum, there are still no shortage of sources of uncertainty. The issue of quite how ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ Britain’s exit from the EU will be is still to be determined and what that will mean in terms of SME access to the single European market and individual countries within it remains unclear.
Taking the lead
Brexit is certain to introduce some significant challenges to the operations of SMEs in Greater Manchester and around the country and this could lead to delays and uncertainty around key investment decisions. But on the whole SMEs have good reason to feel optimistic about their prospects and they look poised to lead the way in seizing whatever opportunities emerge once Britain is officially no longer part of the EU.