The UK government should prioritise negotiating EU single market access and new trade deals with non-EU countries.
That’s the message from a post-referendum survey of SMEs, conducted for PwC’s My Financepartner (MFp) division.
The views of 566 SMEs from across Britain with an estimated combined turnover of some £5.7bn, says Germany should be the priority EU member for new trade agreements.
Half of the SMEs surveyed said they will continue with their planned capital investment over the next 12 months, but a fifth have put recruitment plans on hold.
A similar number confessed they do not have the necessary management information to assess and plan for the impact of Brexit.
Some 40% of SMEs said setting immigration targets should be a government priority and nearly half (46%) say the government should focus on support for UK exporters looking to expand outside the EU.
Four in ten (41%) expect Brexit to increase their cost-base, while only 25% expect their prices to increase.
Tony Price, PwC UK partner and MyFinancepartner leader said: “What’s worrying here is that, while most companies have clear views about what they want in terms of market access and government priorities, when it comes to strategy, pricing and management information, there is much less confidence and certainty.
“Many of the businesses surveyed have contingency plans to grow their business and take advantage of the opportunities that leaving the EU will bring – and that’s welcome. However, the inability to pass costs on to your customers will squeeze margins and ultimately reduce productivity while the lack of genuine insight by internal management information systems could leave companies unable to make informed choices.”
The findings also revealed that the bigger the company as measured by turnover, the greater the importance of retaining single market access.
Companies in London and the South East were particularly anxious to retain EU single market access post-Brexit (74% and 72% respectively), as were 73% of Scottish SMEs. In the pro-Brexit heartlands of the Midlands, however, only 53% saw this as a priority.