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UK SMEs uncertain of Article 50 impact

Only one in four SME owners in the UK believe that they have a clear understanding of what Article 50 is and what it means for their business, according to results of a new survey.

The Close Brothers Business Barometer is a quarterly survey that questions over 900 UK SME owners and senior management across a range of sectors and regions.

Neil Davies, CEO, Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing said: “Among smaller companies (those with a turnover less than £500k) the lack of understanding is even more acute.

“In that category of respondents the figure falls to only 19%, which is indicative of how little people really know about Article 50 and its potential impact.”

Over half (52%) of businesses were ‘unsure’ whether the triggering of Article 50 would have any measurable effect on their business; 21% felt it would while the remaining 27% said ‘no’.

Mr Davies said: “In the absence of any certainty, business owners are left with no choice but to adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach.

“In common with a year ago when the Brexit outcome was announced, companies are getting on with their day-to-day activities and hoping for the best outcome.”

The survey also examined the future of the UK, with 40% of business owners believing that the triggering of Article 50 will lead to the break-up of the UK, while Scotland (53%) and the Republic of Ireland (61%) were the most convinced.

Mr Davies said: “While these results are speculation only, it speaks to the uncertainty about the future of the UK in its current form,”

“This brings with it concerns about impact to their business, which in turn can lead to caution when making investment and growth decisions, with many deferring until there is more certainty in the market. For now, though, it is something we are all going to have to live with.”

Businesses were divided when asked ‘do you think triggering Article 50 will bring more or less clarity to our relationship with the EU?’, with 49% answering ‘more’ and 51% saying ‘yes’.

Mr Davies concluded: “For many UK businesses, Europe is a key market, and will continue to be so regardless of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.

“Triggering Article 50 on its own does not seem to have brought the clarity many were hoping for.”

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