The decision to leave the EU came as a shock to many of us with speeches, propaganda and an endless barrage of political commentary overwhelming the media throughout. But now the polling stations have shut, and the votes have been counted, what will the decision really mean for SME owners and the future of UK businesses?
One of the most interesting insights from this referendum was the amount of influence social media wielded, showing that the majority of people sought the knowledge of their peers, rather than politicians.
This seeming dis-trust of the legislature meant that businesses and individuals had more of a voice to share their views and predictions. If this was the case during the campaign, surely it should carry on now we are seeking a solution.
Business owners especially have a great opportunity to now shape the future of the UK economy. In particular, SMEs have more influence than they may realise, employing 60% of the private sector workforce. The outward reaction they show to their employees may also be the one that they take home to their families and friends, having a trickle-down effect on consumer confidence and therefore market buoyancy.
So what should SME owners really know about our decision to leave the EU, and how can this help us regain economic stability?
It won’t happen overnight
Many of us woke up on 24 June, saw the result, and thought the world as we knew it was set to change forever. In some respects, this is true. As a nation we have made a global political statement that we are not happy and we desire change. How we are viewed by the EU, and the world, has changed and this will have ramifications.
However, the logistics of leaving, and the agreements that will have to be made to facilitate an exit, are set to take over two years to finalise and the possible outcomes are numerous.
It is expected that some sort of economic trading scheme will be agreed too, as seen in Norway and Sweden, but this will also come with free-movement conditions. Given that immigration control was one of the top reasons many voted ‘Leave’ we believe that this will not be welcomed with open arms by the British public
There is also a possibility that the EU itself will begin the complex process of reform, whereby we may then be given the option to vote again on whether we want to be a member now changes have been made. This may also be met with criticism.
Uncertainty was certain
Market volatility and economic uncertainty were always going to be consequences of a Brexit, but this is purely due to the fact that there are now so many unanswered questions. The resignation of David Cameron did not aid the situation, and the sudden decrease in the value of sterling sent everyone into a mad panic.
What we must remember is that this was the result of shock and this has now died down. Stability will return. We cannot expect for things to return to how they were before the votes were counted, but we can be assured that a new equilibrium will be found over the next few months.
What we must do as SME owners is continue with business as usual. If the majority set an example, consumer confidence is more likely to return which will help ensure the economy remains buoyant.
Mike Cherry, National Chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses released a statement a few days after the vote was announced reassuring small business that “they can continue to trade and do business” promising that “when the negotiations start, FSB will be a constructive partner and strong voice for small business.”
Just because we have voted to leave the EU, that does not mean the economy will descend into un-regulated chaos. The UK government will still legislate for prosperity and economic growth and pressure groups like the FSB will continue to ensure small business rights are defended.
Whatever the outcome of negotiations, we can be sure that it will be made with the UK’s future economic prosperity in mind. However, in order for normality to be restored as quickly as possible, SMEs must set an example. We must be ready to defend our rights, continue to serve our customers and carry on with business as usual if we are to brave this temporary storm.