39 Nottinghamshire based small business owners and sole traders- often considered the backbone of the UK’s economy – are publicly backing calls for a referendum on Brexit. They have all written to their MPs to demand a public vote on Brexit.
Helen Dickson opened bridal boutique DressPlace in Nottingham 10 years ago. She has 12 employees.
She said: “Brexit has already affected the business. Firstly, all the prices went up. Most of our gowns are made in Asia so are pegged to the US dollar, and they went up 10% directly after the 2016 referendum. That’s huge on a gown. Secondly, we found that the general uncertainty meant people were putting wedding plans on hold indefinitely because they were unsure about their jobs. This is a reasonable fear; less business also saw us letting two staff members go last November.
“I want a People’s Vote because the people I know who voted ‘leave’ have said they did so because they were concerned about immigration and the NHS. They did not know about the other impacts and now they have seen the physical effects on the country – in terms of economic decreases and also that the new drugs and equipment they hoped for the NHS won’t be forthcoming – it is time to vote again with full understanding. I have several family members who feel this way and I am sure that sentiment is widespread.”
Based in Newark, Paul Crick is the founder of Next Level Leadership, offering leadership coaching to clients. In the 2016 referendum, Paul voted to leave the EU.
He says: “I voted Leave, not because I wanted my ‘country back’ or ‘people out’. I wanted Brussels to re-organise. But we were either lied to by ‘leave’ or not told important facts by the ‘remain’ side. Just look at the advantages of being in Europe that are now clear: including the fact that Britain receives a lot of money from Europe, that has supported the regeneration of Liverpool, for example, and all the opportunities that freedom of movement brings.
“My own business will be impacted by the general price rises that will come about because we will have tariffs rather than trade agreements. These will be widespread and could even include paper, pens, electricity.
“I want a People’s Vote not just to change the result. I want it because the 2016 vote was based on a bunch of lies, and I believe in democracy. The point of democracy is to present an honest set of arguments so that decisions can be made based on those. We have not yet had that opportunity and it is not unreasonable to expect that.”
Dr Keith Norman founded Reboot Therapy based in Worksop, in 2017. It offers occupational therapy and assisted technologies.
He says: “I believe that Brexit means that everyone will be worse off, and so that means my business will be impacted because it will hit everyone and everything.
“I want a People’s Vote because no one had full information back in 2016. I voted ‘remain’ but my vote was based on 30% understanding and 70% guess-work and gut-feeling. Now we know far more facts, I am sure there are many people who voted ‘leave’ who, like me, did not know or understand what we all know now. Two years of government mess have led us to choices that are worse off than what we have. That’s bonkers.”
Helen, Paul and Keith, among thousands of small business owners from across the UK who have written to their MPs to demand they back a People’s Vote.
Theresa May’s Brexit plan was heavily defeated by MPs last month and Parliament seems unable to agree an alternative.
An increasing number of business leaders and companies have expressed concern that any form of Brexit will harm the economy and put jobs at risk.
Earlier this month, the Midlands based airline FlyBMI collapsed, blaming Brexit.
The aerospace firm Airbus, which employs thousands of people across the UK, has called the government’s handling of Brexit a “disgrace” and said it could quit the UK If we leave the EU.
Sony recently announced it is moving its European headquarters from Britain to the Netherlands to avoid Brexit-related customs issues.
And investment and production in the British car industry has slumped. Honda has announced the closure of its plant in Swindon. Ford is understood to be considering moving production out of the UK, because of Brexit. Nissan has announced that it is switching planned production of its new X-Trail model from Sunderland to Japan. And Jaguar Land Rover is the latest in a growing list of manufacturers to announce it will shut down production in April for an extended period of time, if Brexit goes ahead.
Many business leaders say Theresa May’s Brexit plan offers very little long-term certainty for companies. Instead, it will leave the UK with no say over tariffs or quotas, and no ability to influence the regulations and conditions businesses face.
There are growing fears that more companies could decide to leave the UK, if Brexit goes ahead. A recent survey by the Institute of Directors suggested that one in three British businesses could be forced to shift operations abroad, due to Brexit.
But many small and family run firms operate on tight margins and do not have the option of moving their business abroad.