Politicians need to understand why SMEs need them to deliver a proper Brexit

Politicians need to understand why SMEs need them to deliver a proper Brexit

I am the Managing Director of a medium-sized business involved in the design, manufacturing and construction of all types of steel structures. We work throughout the UK and export all over the world (over 140 countries to date) including whenever possible to other EU member states. We are proud of our history and have been recognised for our exporting excellence through receiving the Queen’s Award on four occasions over the past 30 years of our now near 100th year in business.

We are like many other Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME) in the UK which, combined, create over 60% of employment in our country. We are the powerhouse that drives the British economy, employs people and pays taxes.

Large companies and big multi-nationals have enormous power and influence over politicians and legislators. SMEs are largely disregarded due to their inability to resource or finance lobbyists. SME owners, managing directors and chief executives are flat out working on a day-to-day basis and thus, they rely heavily on our elected politicians to legislate in the interests of their business and staff.

Our only other voice is heard through a variety of trade associations, some of which are influenced by the big business voices who represent a minority of employers. The officers of such trade organisations do not run businesses.

In the last few days I have written to every Member of Parliament in the hope that they will listen to the very people who run SMEs, to understand what membership of the EU has been like. There has been no gain for the clear majority of SMEs. Click here to read a copy of my letter.

Our business has been damaged and hindered throughout the last 40 years of our membership as a direct result of bad directives and regulations that have emanated from the EU. Protectionism within the EU is rife; there are many obstacles to working across Europe. There is no level playing field. The EU makes running SMEs more difficult, which restricts investment and makes it harder to grow. Added costs and man-hours make it more difficult and less profitable to export to the rest of the world.

We are concerned when we hear our politicians trying to water down what we and 17.42 million people voted for on 23rd June. It would be a betrayal if those who say that Brexit means Brexit do not deliver our proper exit from the EU.

Simon Boyd welcoming Boris Johnson to REIDSteel during the referendum campaign

“Soft” versus “hard” Brexit is no more than code for in or out. If businesses like ours are to invest and grow we need to be able to take back control over who makes our laws. We need to be rid of the interfering power of the European Court of Justice that does as much damage to workers as it does the businesses that support them. We need to be free to be able to set up our own trade agreements with the rest of the world – including the EU if they value the enormous trade they enjoy with the UK (they sold us £126 billion more in goods than we sold to the EU at last count; services only partially made up the difference, as ONS figures testify).

Politicians are not businessmen and few businessmen can master spin like politicians. Mr Cameron did not negotiate well on behalf of the country, indeed I recoiled into myself with embarrassment. He gave away all his strengths before he started, asked for precious little, got less and claimed victory. Everyone saw straight through it.

The EU are playing hard ball to frighten us (only to be expected), because they have the most to lose. We need not make a single concession. They have much more to lose than us; they have far more jobs at risk than we do. A tariff wall would reap us huge returns if we were to continue importing the same amount of goods from the EU.

We need to be bold and clear in our negotiating position. I suggest the following opener:

“We do not want to be in the Single Market or the Customs Union. We want to make free or low tariff deals with our friends world-wide. We would be happy to reach such a deal with our European friends. We would be happy to allow the EU tariff-free access to our markets in return for continued tariff free access to their markets; or reciprocal low tariffs if they prefer. But we do not accept the supremacy of the EU law and the ECJ and must be free to control our borders in the interests of British businesses, their employees and the remainder of the UK population”.