Simon Hart

Written by:

Simon Hart

Partner, International

Brexit reality check

Middle market looks at Brexit through different lens to media.

Since the EU referendum, Brexit has dominated front pages – and more often than not it’s been bad news. As negotiators in the UK and Brussels tackle the thorny issues of the divorce settlement, headlines have helped to whip up an air of negativity: ‘How Brexit is set to hurt Europe's financial systems’; ‘'Bad Brexit' would hurt the UK economy for more than a decade. And just this week: ‘Britain heading for “worst” Brexit deal’.

There is little doubt that we are living through one of the greatest periods of uncertainty and volatility in recent history. Brexit is a huge challenge. Never in the 61-year-history of the EU has a country left. But while the media negativity might in part be warranted, it doesn’t always seem to reflect sentiment on the ground. Our research shows middle market businesses, the backbone of UK commerce, are looking at Brexit through a different lens.

Since last summer, RSM and YouGov have been tracking middle market attitudes towards Brexit. It shows that while sentiment has wavered over the past year, decision makers in all regions of the UK, and all industries, now expect the UK’s departure from the EU to have a positive effect on the economy and their business prospects over the next two and five years. 

Of course, newspapers report what their sources tell them; parts of the business community have indeed been vociferous with their objections. It’s important these concerns are heard by negotiators in the UK and Brussels. At the same, it’s important that pragmatism is heard too. If we’re not careful, we might, just might, talk ourselves into a malaise, and a worse position than we otherwise might have found ourselves in. 

What we do know is that businesses now need accurate details about Brexit. One consumer business leader told us: ‘Give us clarity. At the moment there is no defined path, so we struggle to make full and adequate preparation.’ This was echoed by other industries. A financial services decision maker said: ‘I don’t expect miracle deals to be made but I do expect clarity, efficiency and honesty so we can plan and adjust.’ And a TMT firm said the number one thing the government should do is ‘supply us with useful information about the new laws and changes in our market.’ 

Dare I suggest that we need fewer politics and more action for businesses – clarity over the deals being sought, a timetable businesses can plan around, initiatives to stimulate trade with less red-tape, bureaucracy and stress. At the same time, it’s important to remain pragmatic. Businesses are adapting to the changing environment. They always have and always will. Right now, the best thing decision makers can do is face problems one at a time, be solutions orientated, and not be too heavily swayed by newspaper headlines.

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