On Friday 5th April, Jamie Robertson from BBC News Business Live interviewed local business leaders on Chelmsford High Street, including Lara Fox, Managing Director of Objective IT and Essex IOD Ambassador.
From market stall holders to software developers and construction companies, business leaders were asked their opinions on topics as broad as the supply of fresh produce, the labour market, VAT and they all had one answer in common, they don’t know what is going on.
Lara highlighted that in the event of No Deal, HMRC have agreed to continue the Reverse Charge VAT agreement between the UK and the EU. Shockingly she revealed that this information was sent to her from a client. She went on to stress the desperation of SMEs trying to find information, having to rely on bodies such as the IoD and their own research to find out possible solutions to multiple, complex problems.
Lara then stated that despite numerous calls to bring UK productivity in line with other EU countries, parliament have UK businesses preparing for three different Brexit scenarios. UK businesses are being kept at a cliff edge, causing them to not invest in new technology such as AI to improve productivity, but instead stock pile reserves in order to ensure they maintain trading. She adds, although these aren’t business-threatening situations , they are issues that distract from business-as-usual. Without these complexities she suggests her business would have expanded, but due to the uncertain political situation they are now focused on maintaining business instead.
Whilst focus has been on large companies moving their headquarters to Europe, the SME’s that make up a large proportion of the Essex economy are being left in the dark by government. Whether it is the market trader who has already suffered problems importing fruit and vegetables from the EU, the property developers who are struggling to find investors as they fear a drop in UK property prices, or the software developers that are having to double their marketing efforts to maintain the same level of work, SMEs need clarity. Yes, as the news often highlights, one large company moving its headquarters is dramatic for that community, but let’s not forget the 5.6 million SMEs throughout the UK that account for 60% of employment.