Now the result is a clear vote to Leave the European Union, where next for UK micro-businesses?
Well, we now know that both campaigns made claims which they have rather quickly rowed back from. Remain’s claims that an immediate emergency budget would be needed, and that the Article 50 notice to leave the EU would be activated straight after the vote, have both been put to bed by the Government. Meanwhile Leave’s suggestions that inward migration would be controlled and that £350 million a week could be redirected to the NHS have now both been denied by leading Leave campaigners.
Sadly this won’t be the last political campaign where the truth has been an early casualty. But what else do we know for sure?
We know that if Article 50 is triggered there will be a minimum 2 year period before the UK leaves the European Union, so the current formal membership will remain until at least 2018. However what form of UK association with the EU, if any, will be agreed after that period is uncertain. Leave campaigners have widely differing views on which model should be adopted, and views may develop further through the Conservative party’s leadership election process.
We know that, so far, EU leaders have mostly taken a much harder line than many predicted. Their expressed desire for a quick UK exit is contrary to the preferences of Conservative leadership front-runners. While legal experts generally agree that only the UK government can trigger the exit process, the tone from EU leaders will make collaboration and negotiation a challenge.
We also know that the period of uncertainty will continue for some time. While the Bank of England and Treasury have good contingency plans ready to manage immediate economic pressures, no political party and no Government ministry has a clear strategy on where next. It may be that while civil servants go into overdrive planning next steps for Brexit, other major government projects will have to be delayed. This could impact plans to digitise many government services, delay city devolution deals, and more.
The Silver Lining
The good news is that micro-businesses, with their nimble approach and low fixed assets, are in general far less vulnerable to the market and currency fluctuations we are experiencing. Many larger firms, lumbered with expensive fixed costs, may well choose to depend even more on flexible freelancers, contractors, small-businesses and the self employed to deliver for them through this period of uncertainty. So there could be some good opportunities for our community in all this.
Meanwhile the Finance Bill is still scheduled to continue through Parliament this week, including an amendment on the impacts of dividend tax increases on micro-business owners. We will keep you posted on all the developments.