SMEs with growth plans fear exit from Europe

  • Majority of SMEs (53%) have made up their minds on whether Brexit will have a positive or negative impact.
  • Twice as many of these SMEs say Brexit would have negative consequences for their businesses.
  • SMEs that predict business growth for the next six months are significantly more likely to see negative impact from the UK leaving Europe.


In the lead up to the referendum to decide on whether the UK should remain in or leave the EU, the debate is focused on how a Brexit might affect big business and the wider economy.

A new nationwide survey by Aon Risk Solutions captured the viewpoint from SME. The poll conducted by YouGov found that the majority of SME leaders (53%) have made up their minds as to whether Brexit would have a positive or negative impact on their businesses.

Those that said leaving Europe would have a negative impact on business outnumbered those that thought it would have a positive one by almost two to one (34% Vs. 19%).

Furthermore, the ‘in’ number rose to almost 55% among those businesses that confidently predicted growth for their ventures in the months ahead, suggesting that there was a perceived connection between business confidence and seeing membership of the EU as beneficial.

By contrast, SMEs that predicted contraction or decline for the months ahead were more likely to see Brexit as having a positive impact on their business (14% Vs. 12%). These businesses also cited ‘increased competition’ as the number one factor (31%) influencing their business outlook for the next three months, followed by concerns about retaining existing customers (26%). Together, these suggest possible drivers to support the Brexit campaign.

The size of the business was also a factor in how the impact of Brexit was perceived: SMEs with a turnover of more than £10m were 11% more likely to see staying in the EU as positive than SMEs with a turnover of less than £1m.

The survey has been tracking SME confidence and influences for the last year. Overall, confidence has remained constant over the past year, with between 48-50% of SMEs surveys experiencing growth.

Chris Lee-Smith, Managing Director, Aon Risk Solutions, Affinity commented: “As part of our tracking on SME outlook and confidence, this new survey goes beyond asking people whether they are in favour or not of Europe, but links SME business outlook with their assessment on whether a move either way may or may not be harmful to business. The fact that two in five SME’s surveyed said Brexit would not impact their business in some ways is a testimony to the enduring strength of SME outlook. The last year has been one of many major political and economic events that underline the importance of small businesses needing to live with and adjust to change.

“At Aon we partner with our SME clients to help them anticipate and manage change in the face of an increasingly competitive market and, at times, uncertain world. Whether businesses face risks in their office tackling cybercrime or following health and safety regulations – or whether they are considering how to tackle risks in achieving growth in overseas markets, Aon helps SMEs to plan and navigate a clear path through uncertainty, managing risks before they damage their business.”

Whilst care has been taken in the production of this article and the information contained within it has been obtained from sources that Aon UK Limited believes to be reliable, Aon UK Limited does not warrant, represent or guarantee the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or fitness for any purpose of the article or any part of it and can accept no liability for any loss incurred in any way whatsoever by any person who may rely on it. In any case any recipient shall be entirely responsible for the use to which it puts this article.

This article has been compiled using information available to us up to 16.05.16.

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