Small businesses like mine don’t need a deal that locks us into a system with no exit

Small businesses like mine don’t need a deal that locks us into a system with no exit

I recently added my name to a long list of other business leaders calling on MPs to reject the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

But whereas those trying to keep us in the EU, or who support this deal, like to roll out big name brands from huge multinational companies, we speak as those who make up a larger part of the economy – Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).

According to the latest figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, 99.9% of all businesses in the UK are SMEs and account for over half of the private sector turnover in this country.

Small businesses, like the technology company I helped found, which employs over 15 people in the UK, are the life blood of our economy. Those entrepreneurs who have staked their own money and reputations on realising an idea – whether it’s the sole trader, the family-run business or the established regional player – are the ones politicians should be listening to when it comes to our future relationship with the EU, and with the world.

We are the ones with the confidence to try and to fail, to risk and to reward, to expand and to innovate.

We don’t have the same marketing muscle as big business. Our pockets aren’t so deep as to be able to continually lobby Brussels or government for favourable regulatory and tax regimes.

We trade fairly and squarely on our own terms, ready to use our agility and flexibility to deal with whatever change in the markets comes our way.

Big business likes to stifle competition and discourage new players from entering the market. Despite public protestations to the contrary, they encourage, embrace – and often have a hand in writing the regulations that become those barriers to entry for entrepreneurs looking to innovate and compete.

And this is why big business has no problem with this deal. It’s why it campaigned to remain in the EU in the first place.

A protectionist bloc with a tariff barrier wall around it – keeping global competition out and as many rules as possible in. Encouraging scale and consolidation, not innovation and productivity.

Free trade with the rest of the world, with our external tariffs reduced to zero, would see a level playing field with companies competing based on quality, cost and inventiveness. Prices would go down, as we would not be forced to buy from expensive EU producers.

The UK has a service-dominated economy. If we want the countries of the world to buy those services, we will be expected to buy their goods in return. But we won’t be able to if we are locked into the EU rule book on goods. This is why saying we could still forge our own trade deals under this agreement is so misleading. Which countries will want to trade with us on such terms?

SMEs like mine want to trade, we want to compete, we are eager for the challenges that await us. We don’t need a deal that locks us into a system where there are no exits. We don’t need subsidies and handouts.

The Government’s EU Withdrawal Agreement lacks practicality and realism – two things that, as a business leader, you can’t do without.

We’re told that we must essentially remain in the customs union and the goods regime of the single market because of the Northern Irish border. Yet as someone who has spent their life in the technology industry, creating products and services that have never existed before, I can tell you that we can use British technological innovation to solve these border issues.

So, let’s free ourselves from the stifling standards of the Single Market. Let our small businesses buy from the world to lower prices for our consumers, replacing government aid with free trade.

The small business backbone of this country stands ready and eager to get on with the job, come 29th March 2019. 

I’ve spent the whole of my working life solving problems no one thinks can be solved. Don’t let anyone tell you that “no deal” cannot be done.