Following a recent YouGov poll revealing that Small to Medium enterprises (SMEs) had grave concerns over the government’s handling of trade negotiations with the EU, Ian King took the initiative to debate the YouGov information and ask some trade group reps a few dismissive questions, like “These companies that have a ‘pessimistic’ outlook, what are they actually doing to prepare for Brexit?”
Now, before we tap into that debate, it might be appropriate to provide some of the YouGov data…
QUESTION 1: How good/bad have the govt been at consulting business leaders over Brexit?
DON’T KNOW: 12%
QUESTION 2: How good/bad have the govt been at informing businesses about the changes it intends to make?
DON’T KNOW: 9%
QUESTION 3: Are you prepared for Brexit?
DON’T KNOW: 6%
QUESTION 4: What do you think will be the impact of Brexit on your business?
(‘Don’t know’ option not given)
Instead of actually addressing the concerns of SME businesses or questioning what appears to be a complete breakdown of communications between the government and small business representatives, Ian King took a rather dismissive angle to his questioning and implied that these SMEs, who he earlier admitted made up the bulk of our economy, were worried about nothing and should stop being so pessimistic. His subsequent questioning revolved around asking his guests to offer advice to help reassure small businesses.
The entire program then revolved around advising businesses about “modifying their supply chains” and looking for “opportunities” outside of the EU. One of the commentators suggested that SMEs should not expect to rely on the government and should find ways to fix their own problems (problems the government created, not the SMEs) and it might be a good idea, he said, to join a trade body to get some representation for your business and have some influence over current trade negotiations. The implies a level of ignorance that you would not expect coming from the mouths of trade group representatives. Leaving the EU means a change in tariffs but we have no idea what they will be at this point, also, EU tariffs aren’t expected to be higher than those from other trading blocks and countries, so there aren’t likely to be better “opportunities” elsewhere. What’s likely to happen is that businesses will pass on the price increases to their customers and the government will blame businesses for being unprepared or not being ambitious enough rather than accept the blame for any negative economic impact resulting from Brexit.
One trade adviser even suggested it might be advisable for certain businesses who do a lot of trade with the EU to actually consider relocating, at least some part of their businesses, to the EU, suggesting that, in reality, many SMEs will behard pressed to find better opportunities outside of the EU. A Freudian slip perhaps?