YourBusinessWithJamesCaan2016 - 49

TRADE

Brexit - the aftermath
The shock EU referendum result blew British politics apart,
but how will it affect new and small businesses?

'B

rexit means Brexit', declared the
new Prime Minister as politicians,
commentators and businesspeople all
scrambled to understand what Theresa
May actually meant. On 23 June, the
country decided that Britain should
leave the EU by 52%-48% with over
30 million people casting their vote.
What that will entail and when Brexit
might happen are all up in the air and
the uncertainty helps no one, especially
small and new businesses.
On Brexit we have more questions
than answers in terms of what will
happen and its impact on small
business. The big questions - for Brexit
Secretary David Davis and his European
counterparts - are whether we have
access to the single market, the impact
leaving the EU will have on regulations
that govern small business, whether it's
wise to limit trading with Europe and
when these questions will be answered.
On the plus side, those who have
always pushed hardest for Brexit, such
as the right-wing of the Conservative
Party, have traditionally been
champions for new and small business,
so an optimist will point to the possible
silver lining that Brexit will bring the
country's entrepreneurs.

WORDS: JAMIE GLASSMAN | PHOTOGRAPHY: SHUTTERSTOCK

FALLING POUND

In the immediate aftermath of Brexit,
the UK's financial situation has been
mixed. Business confidence and
uncertainty sent sterling plunging to its
lowest level since 1985, though it has
picked itself up from where it was in
July; retail sales grew by 5% over the
year and by 1.5% in July. The number of
jobless fell in July too, though the
housing market has slowed and would
surely have reversed if it wasn't for the
Bank of England lowering interest rates
to their lowest level since its creation
322 years ago. All this and the Brexit
negotiations haven't even begun.
There are plenty of UK businesses
feeling optimistic about the impact of
Brexit. The Leave campaign has been

saying for years that businesses will
thrive once they are free of 'Brussels red
tape'. As it stands, small businesses still
have to abide by the same rules they did
before the vote but entrepreneurs may
find that laws such as maternity and
paternity leave, discriminatory practices
and the laws for hiring and firing will be
more flexible in future.
Some hope that post-Brexit, the UK
will be free to independently agree
favourable trade deals with trading
partners such as the USA and China
though President Obama (even
though he won't be there for much
longer) made it clear that Britain
would be at the back of a long queue
when it comes to making a trade deal
with the USA. As for China, the China
Daily newspaper reports that it will
require an estimated 500 British

HOPEFUL
FOR HI-FI
Linn Products is a manufacturer of
high-end home music systems in
Glasgow. Linn CEO Gilad
Tiefenbrun said the referendum
'certainly unsettled people,
especially when David Cameron
and Mark Carney were loudly
warning of the dire consequences
of a Leave vote. We are always
significantly impacted by negative
sentiment, because a Linn system is
a discretionary purchase. Our UK
sales dipped about four weeks
ahead of the vote and are only now
returning to normal.'
Gilad also says many of his
peers are saying similar
things. In the long term he is
optimistic that exports will
increase and the company will
grow as a consequence of the
UK's exit from the
European Union.

negotiators and 10 years before any
deal could materialise.
Optimistic commentators will point
to recent manufacturing figures which
show that British industry is on the up
since the vote. The CBI said that output
growth continued 'at the same brisk
pace' in the three months to September.

CONFIDENCE ON THE UP

A recent report into SME confidence
post-Brexit carried out by the Bank of
Cyprus also found bullish results. The
bank's chief executive Nick Fahy says
that despite the lack of clarity, the UK's
business owners and small businesses
remain cautiously optimistic about
their prospects. 'In the weeks
immediately after the vote, the UK
economy contracted due to uncertainty,
but this is not the case for the nation's
vital bedrock of businesses - Britain's
independent high-street retailers,
family businesses and shopkeepers.'
Tourism is one sector of the economy
that could benefit from Brexit. A poll of
Scottish tourism operators found a high
level of confidence in the future.
Asked about opportunities in the wake
of the referendum, the vast majority of
respondents highlighted taking
advantage of the exchange rate, with the
fall in the value of the pound said to
have made it more affordable for
overseas visitors to travel here - and
encouraged Britons to take staycations
rather than go abroad for their holidays.
So, while the picture remains
uncertain with the big decisions still to
be made and the tough negotiations
and trade deals about to get underway,
Brexit remains a mixed bag for small
and new businesses.
There are pockets of the
economy which are
looking up but what
impact Brexit will have in
the years to come is
anybody's
guess.

49



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