What does 'Brexit means Brexit' mean for West of England businesses?



The end of this month marks one year since UK voters took the decision to leave the EU and businesses are still adjusting as the dust settles. The potential of leaving the single market, a weaker pound and yet-to-be-established trade deal with the EU are tipping the once-stable scales for businesses in the UK.

According to recent figures released by the HMRC, a weaker pound has benefitted West of England exporters by making their products more competitive - raising the value of goods exported overseas by 30 per cent, and earning them £4.8bn more than during the same period last year. Similarly, businesses who already had a well-established international and online market presence saw a boost in sales as the pound weakened.

Terry Burke is head of sales at Growth Hub support provider Bibby Financial Services, who offer a range of assistance to West of England businesses from their Bristol office. We sat down with him to hear just what Brexit means for West of England start-ups and how Bibby can help them navigate the minefield to safety.

Although media coverage of business trends regarding SMEs post-Brexit suggests a conservative reluctance to take risks, Terry had a more optimistic outlook on what the future holds for small companies. He reported that he’s seen over three-quarters of West of England businesses developing plans to invest internally over the next three months - typical of the optimism and ambition taking hold in the region.  

He said: “Our Quarterly Confidence Tracker, which is a survey of over 1,000 UK SMEs, tells us that the key challenges are rising costs, increasing competition, domestic demand and foreign exchange fluctuations.

“These challenges are not helped by the political instability we currently have in the UK. However, while the uncertainty could prompt a wait-and-see approach, there’s a clear opportunity there for those who have confidence in their business to invest, expand and seek out new markets to steal a march on their competition.”

And here, says Terry, is where Bibby can come to the aid of Growth Hub members.

He explained: “We’ll maintain our pre-referendum strategy which is to grow our business by supporting UK SMEs with access to funding. Bibby has a strong track record of supporting businesses through periods of uncertainty, so I believe we’re well placed to provide support in the coming months.

“I believe we also have a responsibility to provide support to our clients by having informed discussions around the potential impact on their business, and making sure they’ve given every consideration to planning for those uncertainties – whether they be around funding, exchange rate risk, labour supply or more. The West of England Growth Hub provides us with a network of partners who are on-hand to support to local businesses in a huge range of areas.”