The tendency of the media (newspapers, TV and radio) to look for headlines and so to over-emphasise negative news was one of the main points to come out of the MBF discussion “How has Brexit and the triggering of Article 50 affected your business?” held on Tuesday 5th September. The spirit of small business was evident in the general feeling that people would respond to the changes and opportunities presented.
Discussion points were generated by attendees responding to 4 statements about the possible effects The statements were read out in turn; after each one everyone rated how much they agreed with it on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 = wholehearted agreement, 1= complete disagreement i.e. think the opposite).
Each person chose a card with their rating on it and all the cards were revealed at the same time. The contrasting scores led to discussions on what was behind the different choices.
The four statements are shown below together with some of the key points raised in discussing them:
- My business has suffered because of the Brexit referendum and the triggering of Article 50.
- Some attendees had found that customers and prospects were holding off on investments which was having a negative effect
- Others had benefited by the drop in the value of the pound which meant that many investments and personal savings had increased in value
- Increased costs from the lower pound were affecting businesses but also their competitors. It was not yet clear whether customers were generally reducing their purchases due to higher costs
- There was an increased feeling of insecurity for some people
- I am planning to invest more because of the opportunities presented by Brexit
- A few negative scores reflected views that business risk had increased due to uncertainty. While this might not affect day to day business, it acted as a constraint on investing in new projects
- Most people had not changed investment plans due to Brexit
- My business confidence has dropped as a result of Brexit
- Several people strongly disagreed. They felt that the UK was taking back control and would benefit from having a wider global outlook
- The UK’s position as the 5th or 6th largest economy in the world and its expertise in many sectors was felt to give confidence that business would prosper once we were outside the EU
- However, most agreed that there might be some initial bumps and difficulties during the exit period
- Public confidence was affected by negative reporting by the media, who were obviously looking for dramatic headlines. There was a perception, real or built up by the media, that different government ministers were pursuing different aims
- Brexit / Article 50 have affected me negatively
- Most attendees were getting used to the changes and adapting to them
- However, for those who were EU nationals or were close to them, there was a feeling of being made unwelcome and uncertainty over future rights
Overall, most of those at the meeting had not been majorly affected by Brexit and the triggering of Article 50. The general feeling of the meeting was positive towards the outcomes and what it would mean for them and their businesses. It was felt that it was important not to pay too much attention to the way newspapers, radio and TV made crises out of some inevitable disagreements during negotiations.
Two points came out which we felt would be important to raise during our meeting with our MP, Nus Ghani in October
- It was important for the government to improve their messaging to demonstrate a cohesive approach and to promote a positive vision of the future
- More fleshing out of the UK’s objectives in terms of trade with the EU, migration and the rights of UK/EU nationals in each other’s countries were important to reduce uncertainty and so improve confidence.