Britain and the EU: Views from the SME community

The voice of the SME community
The voice of the SME community

Luke Lang, co-founder of Exeter-based crowdfunding firm Crowdcube, says:

“The general public need to become more aware of the benefits of the UK being part of the EU and how that has had a positive impact on our commercial business life but also from a personal point of view too. For the last four decades since we’ve part of the EU, it’s had a profound effect on the fortunes of the UK – how we are perceived by the world and how we are able to trade with other countries, not just in the EU but also further afield too. It’s unthinkable that we would leave and, if anything, I would like to see a strengthening of our ties with the EU.

“The only caveat I would bring to that is that sometimes a lot of the regulations and red tape that comes with the EU can have a suffocating effect on some businesses and sectors, because that is obviously a very difficult thing for the EU to balance… I’m not sure they can get it right for everyone.

“[The effect of a brexit on UK SMEs] depends on a British SME’s reliance on trading with the rest of the EU… for SMEs generally, fluctuations in the economy can have quite a dramatic impact on the daily lives of those businesses that don’t necessarily have the momentum, capital and resources that can insulate them for big global economic shifts… [such as those witnessed during the economic downturn].”

Adam Reynolds, CEO of online expenses services provider Webexpenses, says:

“We might be an individual organisation but we want to deal with and link with other organisations… [likewise] we want to expand our solution and take this UK based business on a European journey, and it’s easier to do that if we are connected within the EU.

“We recently met with a couple of government bodies from France and Germany to discuss how we would expand into those countries. There are a number of grants, funds and opportunities that they provide but they are on the proviso that you are part of the EU. It’s clear that those opportunities are as a result of the relationship that we have with those countries… [because] we are connected through the EU.

“Only time will tell [whether it would be better or worse for UK SMEs should a Brexit occur] but I think we are in favour of staying connected and making use of the opportunities that those ties bring.”

Andy Bagnall, Director of Campaigns at the CBI, the UK’s biggest business group, says:

“Of the SMEs we talked to, they had exactly the same list of benefits from the EU as those of larger firms: access to the marketplace, free movement of people, ability to access finance and the trade deals that the EU is able to unlock.

“The kind of reforms [our members] are interested in focus around competitiveness. They want a more open, outward looking and competitive Europe – more open in the sense of extending and completing the single market, particularly ensuring the 2006 services directive is properly enforced across the EU.

“They want a more outward looking EU, signing more trade deals and the commission to put more resources into negotiating those deals. The big show in town at the moment is the transatlantic trade and investment partnership, the EU-US trade deal, which we estimate could unlock as much as £7 billion for the UK economy in terms of GDP growth.

“Critically, small businesses wanted a more competitive EU in terms of the way the European Commission approaches regulation. Firstly, they want the right balance between member states and the EU institutions, so the EU to focus on the big issues that drive jobs and growth and not regulate in unnecessary areas. But they also want the very process of producing regulation [to be improved]… if the Commission puts small businesses at the heart of its thinking when designing regulation it’s likely that the regulation would be improved as a result.”

In the next instalment of our Brexit series, we find out what exactly David Cameron wants from a ‘reformed Europe’.