UK mid-sized businesses ‘left in limbo’ and uncertain about Brexit future

Malcolm Thixton, Lead Partner, BDO Southampton

With one year to go until Brexit, three quarters of the UK’s mid-sized businesses say they feel no clearer on the UK’s future with the EU, according to a new poll of nearly 360 businesses published today by accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP.

The UK’s mid-sized businesses are a bellwether of the nation’s economy. Typically mid-market, private equity-backed or AIM-listed, they make up around 0.5% of all companies but account for just over one third of all private sector revenue (£1.3tn) and around 30% of private sector employment.

To sustain their growing contribution to the UK economy, these businesses have called for a focus on domestic policies while the Government continues its international negotiations. When asked which policy would best help their businesses grow now and in a post-Brexit future, almost half (46%) of the mid-sized firms surveyed by BDO named tackling the UK skills crisis as the number one priority.

As well as boosting the skills of the UK’s workforce, 41% of mid-sized companies called for government to help make doing business at home easier by simplifying the UK tax system.

Creating the right environment for businesses and local communities across the UK to flourish was a priority for 39% of these businesses as they called for more investment in smart physical and digital infrastructure.

BDO’s research revealed the ongoing uncertainty around Britain’s Brexit deal with the EU has dampened investment as almost one third (29%) of mid-sized companies reported holding fire on making long-term investment plans.

Outlook in the short-term is however more positive as over two thirds (69%) said they’re feeling confident about achieving their growth ambitions this financial year. A third (35%) are expecting growth of more than 5%.

Malcolm Thixton, Lead Partner at BDO, said: “These national survey results have been echoed by the mid-market here in the Central South. The business community has really been left in limbo while the Government continues its Brexit discussions. While some progress has been made in terms of the transition agreement, the uncertainty around the future of our global position has brought businesses’ focus back home on some fundamental gaps in the UK economy.

“The contribution of the UK’s thriving mid-sized businesses to our national economy – and their resilience at times of disruption – is clear and profound. As we start the one-year Brexit countdown, it’s vital that the Government focuses on creating a simple and stable environment that allows these companies to continue to drive growth for the UK and ensure we remain a strong nation to do business with.”