SMEs must now make their voice heard over Brexit

SMEs must now make their voice heard over Brexit

One of the most unusual aspects of the referendum this year was the division it created between normally natural allies. We know about the division in political parties, but even in families, including my own, there have been sometimes bitter disputes about the issue.

So it is with the Government. The Chancellor is saying one thing, promoting a longer Brexit with transitional arrangements, while the Foreign Secretary is encouraging a final deal within a two- year time-frame.

To be fair to the Government, it is only one department, the Treasury, which appears to be out of step with the rest, and the Chancellor is merely reflecting in part what appears to be the Treasury civil servants’ view that the people need to be saved from their foolish vote in June for Leave.

Whether we end up with extensive transitional arrangements, as the Treasury appears to want, or more limited arrangements, as others seem to be happy with, will depend upon the will of the Government and the negotiations that look likely to start in March.

There is also another divide in the country: the divide between big business organisations and everyone else. There isn’t a day that goes by without someone, usually someone in big business, stating, as if it were true, that the Government has no plan.

So, just for the record, let’s spell out that plan:

  • We’re going to take control of our money and borders.
  • We’re not going to be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
  • We’re going to be a bastion of free trade.
  • We’re going to continue participating in schemes like Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+, but other than that we don’t like cherries, we prefer cake.
  • We want the other EU nations to prosper and thrive and will be working closely with them in aspects of security and intelligence.

In those five points, the plan becomes obvious and clearly means we’re leaving the single market, the customs union and we’re going to promote Global Britain.

The trouble is that we may have won the battle of the referendum, but the war isn’t over yet. The new Italian Prime Minister was just stating a fact when he concluded that Brexit may not happen as there have been plenty of European referendums reversed. In fact, it’s more serious than that. Looking back at history, most referendums are, in the end, overturned.

The forces of Remain are organising, and business groups like the CBI and others never fail to promote any dangers of going for a Clean / Hard / Flexible Brexit. We must provide the counter view that Brexit will be a tremendous opportunity to make this country prosperous, world-leading and less regulated.

Some on our side are doing a great job. Tim Martin from Wetherspoons is a great advocate for reminding people that the need to do some kind of complex trade deal with the EU is just a “false anxiety”. He reminds us that there are plenty of non-member countries which export more to the EU now than the UK does. I would add Peter Cruddas to that list, who built up CMC Markets in the City from scratch and who did such sterling work during the campaign, and who is now working tirelessly to remind ministers that it is their duty to deliver a proper Brexit.

It’s not the natural thing for an SME to get involved in politics and make their voice heard – frankly, if it were, the former Prime Minister probably wouldn’t have thought business was on his side when he called the referendum. But it is essential for people who run SMEs now to register their interest and tell government to get on with it, and go for the real deal.

Most people running SMEs are too busy worrying about paying salaries, getting in new business and complying with the next regulation which comes along, to bother themselves with writing to government. But it is beholden on the thousands of independent shop-keepers, the hundreds of small manufacturers, and the numerous service industries which make up the SME sector to tell government what they think.

Government tell us that they will be very interested in this feedback. They want to hear from small-and medium-sized businesses, and will be even more interested because they don’t hear from them normally. But this is the time to make your voice heard.

The Government is not interested in special pleading, so spare the long stories. They are also not interested in advice about how to negotiate or what to negotiate on – believe me, they have a plan. But if you do have some insight into a particular sector that you think the government should know about, it’s great to share that knowledge.

And if you don’t know who to send it to, start with your MP, and tell them to make sure your voice is heard in government. You haven’t got long, because the Government will be making decisions soon.

The war isn’t over yet. The divides between family, party and business will continue. But if we make our voice heard, we’ll make sure the UK bucks the worldwide historic trend of overturning referendum results and ensures that the will of the British people is carried out.