UK SME Brexit Statistics: Survey Unearths Business Owner Opinions

September 26, 2017

Small business accounting experts Russell Smith Chartered Accountants survey business owners across Britain, uncovering the tone of the post-Brexit vote one year on.

It’s been over a year since the Brexit vote and the dust still has not settled. At Russell Smith Chartered Accountants, we deal with questions about Brexit every day.

Some of our clients were thrilled when the vote result was announced, others less so. Some have struggled since the vote, while others have seen no difference at all. Was it all scaremongering? Or was there reasoning behind ‘Project Fear?

Of course, we are still a member state of the European Union until all the tasks in Brussels are finished, but that doesn’t mean the Brexit vote didn’t have an impact on our economy and the small business owners of the UK.

To find out what the current state of mind of the average British small business owner is a year after the Brexit vote, we surveyed 55 SME Directors and CEOs from across the country to gather some unique Brexit statistics:

The Brexit Statistics Unearthed

In this blog, we break down every aspect of the data we discovered in a bit more detail. If you’re in a rush, though, or just looking for cold, hard data, here is a roundup of the Brexit statistics revealed by the survey:


  • 56% of the SME population chose to remain
  • 18% of those who backed leave would change their vote in a second referendum, compared to only 8% of Remainers
  • 47% of small businesses have been economically unaffected by the vote so far
  • Of those that have seen an economic change, 44% experienced a negative or very negative effect. Only 7% have been positively or very positively affected by the Brexit vote
  • 76% of business owners believe the government failed to provide accurate information about the vote and what it meant to our nation and the economy. 22% believe they gave somewhat reasonable answers. Only 2% said they were satisfied with the government’s contributions
  • 80% of SME owners in the UK want freedom of movement and goods to be part of a Brexit deal
  • Post-Brexit, 40% of businesses expect no change in how they operate. A further 40% expect an uncertain future. 11% of SMEs believe they will struggle, while 9% expect to thrive
  • 80% of SME owners do not expect a second referendum



We also surveyed an additional 248 more business owners, totaling 303 respondents to the query, regarding how they felt about international trade post-Brexit and if they would be tempted by trade deals with the US and China. Here are the results:

  • 88% of SME owners currently trading with EU partners intend to carry on doing so after Brexit
  • 7% will look to domestic trading partners as another option
  • Only 5% of businesses in the UK find the idea of intercontinental trade appealing

A Closer Look

As promised, our small business accountants have been pouring over the data we uncovered, and below they take a look at them in more detail:

The Brexit Vote and Small Business Owners

At Russell Smith Chartered Accountants, we’ve always said that this referendum was an economical decision fought over political views. Most of the small business population seemed to see an economic benefit to remaining the EU, which is why 56% voted to stay.

Following the fallout of the vote, the general state of mind in the SME community has shifted. While the majority of people would back up their vote in a second referendum, some would sway towards a different choice. 8% of those who voted remain would now move towards a vote to leave, while of 18% of leavers would swing the other way. The figure, over twice as high, is likely down to confusing and chaotic campaigning run by both parties, including the infamous NHS bus quote.

76% of business owners thought the information given out by the government about the impending vote has subsequently been shown to be inaccurate or unsatisfactory. 22% thought it was ‘somewhat’ accurate and satisfactory. That leaves only 2% that were happy with the information we were given. This shines a spotlight on how poorly the governing parties for both campaigns ran poor operations.

The Impact of the Brexit Vote on Small Businesses

Positivity is not something many associate with the Brexit vote.

Thus far, our Brexit statistics indicate that only 7% of SMEs in the UK have seen some sort of growth or expansion as a result of the Brexit vote. Conversely, 44% have been hit by the result, likely due to wider-scale economic outlooks such as dipping market confidence and a drop in the value of the pound.

Nearly half of businesses, however (47%), have seen no repercussions, good or bad, from the Brexit result as of yet. These results aren’t all that surprising, with many small businesses in the UK dealing with small-scale, local trade (such as restaurants, beauty salons, accountants, etc.). The only impact they will see is if Brexit hits the pockets of the British population in general. We’ve seen evidence of this already, with household income on the decline, but so far, it isn’t translating into mass turmoil for the UK SME industry.

How Brexit Will Affect SME Trade

Stay or go, SME owners of the UK are pretty unanimous in some of their decisions and beliefs. The Brexit statistics uncovered by Russell Smith Chartered Accountants display a real desire to keep the UK in the single market, or at least come to a similar agreement as the Norwegians.

80% of British business owners want the freedom of movement and trade to be a staple of the Brexit deal. From a purely trade-related standpoint, this makes complete sense. Limiting the British SME’s ability to secure trade in the EU isn’t something that will appeal to many.

What our survey also uncovered was that, while over nearly half of businesses do not currently trade, partner with, or have dealings with other EU businesses, those that do aren’t looking to cut off ties as a result of Brexit. 88% of businesses working with suppliers or partners in EU member states will continue to do so even after Brexit, working around new laws and policies. Of course, again, this makes sense. Building good international links takes time, energy and financial input. The cost of branching out to new places — for both sides of the agreement — will be a resource drain nobody wants to deal with.

Of those looking to switch things up, 7% will come back home, turning to domestic businesses for resource acquisition. Rather surprisingly, only 5% would be looking to go further afield for their supplies and trade deals. Considering how much talk there was around instigating better trade and easier trade agreements with nations like China, the USA, Canada, Japan, and Australia during the Brexit campaign, it really does seem like it wasn’t what British small businesses genuinely cared about.

What the Future Holds for Small Businesses Post-Brexit

Finally, the latter part of the Brexit statistics we acquired looks to the future of small business in the UK.

In a post-Brexit world, 40% of SMEs believe they will see no impact. Is this wishful thinking, naivety, or smart thinking? Only time will tell. A further 40% seems to be a bit more realistic, stating that their future is uncertain. With such monumental changes approaching, in a completely unfounded territory, nobody really knows exactly how things will turn out for the SMEs of Britain.

Some business owners are a bit more certain, though. 11% of SME owners think that they will struggle in a post-Brexit world, while 9% are confident they will actually thrive on the new deals and policies.

One thing, though, is absolutely certain. Only 20% of business owners around the UK believe that a second referendum is on the cards. It means most are resided to their fate, no matter the outcome.

Do you run a business, worried about the ramifications of Brexit and feel you need a bit of support? Or do you represent a publication in the finance/business sector looking for more information or a quote? Get in touch with Russell Smith Chartered Accountants and we’ll be happy to answer your query.

0113 337 2130

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