A new study commissioned by AAT and ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) reveals that most MPs (51%) do not believe British Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are ready for Brexit.
Furthermore, just 3% strongly agree with the statement that, “SMEs are well prepared for the UK’s departure from the EU in 2019.”
The study examines MPs views on a wide range of issues relating to the UK’s 5.7m SMEs including exports, tax accountancy and the availability of help and advice.
An incredible 88% of MPs believe that SMEs must increase exports if Britain is to fulfil its potential as a trading nation, with just 1% disagreeing.
The news is perhaps less surprising given the UK currently ranks in the bottom five for SME exports https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/oct/03/uk-exports-small-medium-sized-business-sme.
A clear majority of MPs (58%) from across the political divide believe that the amount of time and money spent on dealing with the tax system seriously impacts upon SMEs ability to invest and create jobs. In contrast, just 6% disagree.
The role of accountants
On a more positive note, over two thirds of MPs (69%) believe that professional accountants play a vital role in supporting small businesses and helping them to grow. Only 1% disagreed.
ACCA and AAT say there’s strong evidence that accountants are the most trusted and used source of business support amongst UK SMEs. Both bodies are working closely with the government to ensure information and advice is more effectively delivered to the SME community. ACCA for example has a memorandum of understanding with the Department for International Trade (DIT), while AAT has developed Informi, an online portal offering free expert advice to small businesses.
Both start-ups and those who have been in operation for a number of years need more free and independent information, advice and guidance according to MPs. Almost three quarters (73%) believe this to be the case.
Mark Farrar, Chief Executive, AAT said:
“MPs views as to whether SMEs are ready for Brexit appear finely balanced, with a narrow majority suggesting they aren’t. However, on other SME related issues, MPs views are much clearer. As this study highlights, Government needs to help reduce the amount of time and money that SMEs invest in dealing with the tax system and professional accountants can play a part in this. AAT has long been aware of the need for additional free, independent help and advice for SMEs, that’s why we established Informi and have helped thousands of SMEs benefit as a result. There is much more to do to help small businesses but we are certainly playing our part.”
Helen Brand OBE, chief executive of ACCA adds:
“As we progress toward Brexit, it’s good to see that the majority of MPs acknowledge SMEs will need more support and guidance. We believe the Department of International Trade and UK Export Finance play a crucial role here and a more proactive approach is needed to target smaller firms. We also think a particular focus on start-ups and first time exporters is important and we look forward to continuing our work with government to ensure SMEs are informed and supported during this time of change.”