New results from AXA Business Insurance’s three-year tracker of Brexit sentiment amongst small firms highlights small building firms as the most optimistic about their prospects post-Brexit.
The data is significant as the businesses represented fall solely in the 0-9 employee category which make up 95 per cent of UK companies today (accounting for 5.4 million).
When asked in this month’s survey to envision how Brexit is most likely to affect their own business prospects, the gap closes somewhat, as 28 per cent anticipate a positive impact, and only slightly more – 31 per cent, expect a negative impact. Most small businesses say they cannot make a judgement as yet.
Small building firms, who are mostly sole traders and have the strongest history of pro-Brexit sentiment in AXA’s tracker, emerge as the most optimistic about their prospects: 46 per cent say that Brexit is most likely to have a positive impact on their business (half that number – 23 per cent expect a negative influence).
Overall, recruitment plans are down on this time last year – ten per cent of small firms expect to hire in 2019 (compared to 13 per cent in November 2017). Investment plans have taken the biggest hit, as 17 per cent say they will plough money back into their firm next year, compared to 41 per cent this time last year.
Even though cutting red tape was a stated goal of the Brexit campaign, just 12 per cent of small firms believe they will see any reduction in regulations after leaving the EU. Rather, the most common expectation is that their customers will suffer a squeeze on their incomes. A sizeable minority supported the view that Brexit would mean more work for British citizens as opposed to migrant workers.