Business as usual? How are SMEs feeling 6 months on from Brexit?

13/01/2017 By Annette White

As the media continues to speculate about the economic impact of Brexit, what do the UK’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) think about the future, and how does this compare to levels of economic uncertainty experienced in previous years?

SMEs (defined as those with up to 250 employees) make up 99% of all UK businesses. We interview 450 SMEs each quarter on our Business Opinion Omnibus and ask them how they feel about the economy in general – are they more or less optimistic than three months ago?

The net scores for 2016 (subtracting pessimists from optimists) show that while optimism about the economy dipped slightly in the run up to the referendum and again immediately after, it then subsequently rose.  The figures recorded in December 2016 (+33%) were very much in line with those recorded in December 2015 (+35%).

Taking a longer term view, the chart below illustrates the net scores recorded in December over the last 10 years, plus the latest 2016 data. So while the aftermath of the referendum may have caused what could be described as a ‘wobble’ in the data, this seems rather less noteworthy when looking at some of the much lower levels of optimism recorded between 2008 and 2012:

BOO net optimism

Since the referendum we have seen more SMEs expressing a clear opinion one way or the other, with fewer saying their confidence is “no different”. This perhaps demonstrates an increased interest in the economy in general, reflecting the on-going debates in the media about commercial life outside the EU.


The UK is in limbo somewhat, as we wait to see exactly what Brexit means; in the meantime, it seems that it’s business as usual as far as SME confidence is concerned. We will continue to monitor the views of SMEs as negotiations begin and strategies start to emerge – watch this space for updates both from the Business Opinion Omnibus and the SME Finance Monitor.

If you would like to place your own questions on this, or any topic on the Business Opinion Omnibus, then please get in touch with Annette White ( / 07854 146792).