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Brexit and Businesses


In May 2017 Which? commissioned online survey research into the attitudes of small and medium sized enterprise (SME) leaders towards the UK leaving the European Union1. We wanted to better understand sentiment of businesses towards Brexit and the forthcoming negotiations with the rest of the EU, and the extent to which they considered the future to hold opportunities or challenges as a result.

Opportunities and Challenges

Our survey finds that there are mixed views from SME leaders on the opportunities that may come as a result of Brexit - 30% agreed that there would be opportunities, while almost the same proportion disagreed (33%).

In contrast 47% agreed leaving the EU would present challenges, compared to 25% who disagreed.

Brexit concern

In broad terms, it appears that concern about how their business might be affected by brexit increases with the size of the enterprise. Two in five (40%) sole traders were worried about Brexit rising to 59% for medium sized businesses.

Representation in negotiations

When asked about official Brexit meetings and negotiations, 80% of SME leaders thought that the interests of consumers were either very or fairly important. This is almost identical to the 78% of consumers asked in a parallel survey2 who thought the same. Similar proportions of SMEs also felt the interests of SMEs were important (85%), with 69% for large businesses, 77% for UK Government, and 62% the rest of the EU.

However, despite the high perceived importance of the consumer voice in Brexit negotiations and meetings, only 37% of SME leaders expected consumer interests would be represented. By contrast 85% of them expected the interests of large business would be at least to some extent.

Similarly, where 85% of SMEs felt their interests were important in Brexit negotiations, just 43% thought they would be represented at least to some extent.


This survey research finds that SME businesses hold a range of opinions about Brexit, and that they cannot be viewed as one homogenous group. A near equal proportion felt Brexit offers them opportunities as those that do not, although slightly more agree that it will offer up challenges than those that disagree. Concern appears to be highest among the medium sized SMEs, and is lowest in the sole trader and micro businesses.

The vast majority of SMEs thought that consumer and SME interests were important in upcoming Brexit negotiations, however the much fewer numbers felt that they would be represented more than ‘very little’.


1. Populus on behalf of which? Conducted online interviews with 511 owners and directors of small and medium sized businesses between 26th April and 4th May 2017.

2. Brexit Consumer Survey May 2017, nationally Representative Online Survey of 2,066 respondents.

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