SMEs want Brexit reversal but confidence in UK government’s negotiations is rising

By James Wallace - Tuesday, April 10, 2018 14:42

Six out of 10 SMEs in the UK want to reverse the Brexit process and retain EU membership, despite almost eight of 10 SMEs claiming revenues are up on last year and more than half of those surveyed believe the UK government has been effective in its EU negotiations.

The mixed survey, conducted on behalf of Citibase, the flexible office provider, also claims almost three-quarters of SMEs want leases under three years, with this proportion spiking since a similar survey was undertaken during Q1 2017.

The Citibase survey of “of 1,059 SME decision makers” reflects how views are markedly different across the regions (see below).  The flexible office provider-sponsored survey shows top three priorities in choosing an office are:

‘flexible, short term contracts’;

‘high speed internet’; and

‘the ability to easily change the size of our space’.

The popularity of hot desks and ‘lifestyle facilities’, such as an on-site bar and leisure spaces, ranked very low, highlighting that SMEs want functional spaces over social spaces with flexible contracts without costly extras.

Steve Jude, Citibase CEO, said: “While on the surface confidence levels are up, the message from SMEs is clear – they would prefer to not be in this Brexit situation at all, as evidenced by 61% wanting to press the reset button on the entire process. As a result, these SMEs are cautious about the future and don’t want to commit to anything that may stifle their success, such as long-term office contracts that don’t allow them the flexibility they crave to be agile, successful businesses.

“2017 also gave rise to the general trend of larger corporates taking flexible office space, showing that the benefits of agility and flexibility are wide-reaching, whether you are a small start-up or an established entity. Demand for flexible offices is continuing to soar across the country as businesses wake up to the flexible working revolution. Smart building owners can also benefit from this revolution in occupiers shunning traditional office leases, by turning to flexible providers like Citibase that can transform their underused spaces, whether single floors or entire buildings, into profit generating assets that support UK businesses.”

Key regional statistics

London SMEs experienced the most positive effect on their revenue as a result of the Brexit vote (58% said their revenues had increased). The most negative impact on revenue was felt in the North East (26%).

London (73%) and the North East (72%) expressed the greatest desire to reverse the Brexit process. Wales was the region with the least desire to do so (25%).

Short term office contracts under three years in length were the most popular in the North East (83%) and London (81%).

London expressed the most confidence in the government’s ability to secure a good Brexit deal of any region (70% confident). Scotland was the least confident (14% confident, 63% not confident).

Theresa May was most popular in Wales (42%). The North West displayed the greatest popularity for Jeremy Corbyn of any region (17%). Nicola Sturgeon was the most popular choice in Scotland (23%), 2% more popular than Theresa May (21%), who was the most popular choice in Q4 2017.

The North East placed the greatest importance on controlling immigration of any region (51%). The South East identified access to the single market as the most key priority (28%).

James Wallace is a freelance consultant and can be reached via Linkedin or email:

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