Small Businesses Reliant on the EU Need Brexit Answers ASAP

15/07/2016 15:40 | Updated 23 September 2016

It's been almost a month since the British people voted for Brexit, but despite the mass hype, countless promises, threats and warnings made by both sides leading up to the vote... absolutely nothing has happened.

Back before the referendum I wrote a blog post explaining just how important EU membership was to the creative industries in this country, particularly in light of the fact that its a growth industry that create so much money for the economy. Obviously this plea is redundant now since the country has voted - albeit by a slim margin - to leave the EU. As frustrating as that is for remain supporters, the people have spoken and so the best we can do is take it on the chin and get on with things. The problem is we still don't know what's going to happen, which makes planning for a small business's future and survival, particularly one that is so reliant on trade with the EU, decidedly difficult.

As of today we are still an EU member, but for how much longer literally nobody knows - not even the people who are in charge of organising the exit. The new Prime Minister has assured us that "Brexit means Brexit" and in the last 24 hours I've been assured by the new "Brexit Minister" that our date of departure will be around December 2018 but other than that we are still in the dark.

For those of us who have businesses integrally linked to the EU we are all living in a state of limbo waiting for the day that the rug will potentially be pulled out from underneath our feet. As if the stresses of running a small business aren't enough, it's clear that I am going to need to make changes to my business in order to survive in a post-EU Britain, but at this moment in time I have no idea how to plan for that.

Every day I see stories about the negative impact that the Brexit vote has had on the economy and the country, but nobody in power has stepped forward to explain how they are going to counteract this. Granted there has been a change of government but it still doesn't excuse those Brexit campaigners who were so forthright in their promises before the vote yet have now largely been silent on what Brexit really means. All we seem to have gotten are some vague reassurances that everything will be fine but without any evidence to back up their claims. As someone who spent the last 10 years - and most of my 20's - working every hour I could to establish a business, I find it particularly stressful that I have no idea what the future will hold for my staff, my family and myself who all rely on my small business for a living.

Brexit has become the equivalent of a group of politicians standing on the edge of the white cliffs of Dover daring each other to jump off first. Meanwhile we're all sitting here in limbo waiting to see what will happen when they hit the water.

This whole atmosphere of not knowing what's happening isn't just affecting businesses but the people that work for, and indeed own, them as well. I have foreign friends and colleagues who work in the UK that say for the first time in their lives they feel unwanted in this country. Despite having jobs businesses, partners and properties here in the UK some of them are seriously considering leaving because, whether purposely or not, Brexit has sent a bug "Foreigners not welcome" message to those living here. Not only do they feel unwanted by the newly emboldened anti-immigration brigade, but they have no idea if legally they will even be allowed to stay here or not. Until someone in government steps forward to tell them if their future in the country is secure or not can we really blame them for feeling this way?

Just like Brexit itself, politicians are aware of this massive xenophobic shift towards the right but they are doing absolutely nothing to reassure EU citizens living in the UK of their future legal status, or indeed make them feel wanted. The wholesale flight of EU citizens might be music to the ears for the likes of people like Nigel Farage who famously feels uncomfortable hearing too many foreign voices on public transport, but for those of us who work with these people daily it casts yet another shadow of uncertainty on our small businesses.

Of course, the Brexit supporters who voted Leave specifically for anti-immigration reasons might suggest we should be able to simply replace EU workers with Brits, but that is completely missing the point of creativity and the creative industries. Highly talented artists, designers or performers for example don't just grow on trees; these people have talents that they were born with - the essential spark of creativity that some people just don't have no matter how much training they get. It was a testament to how strong our creative industries were that we attracted the best and brightest from all over the EU and these are not people that we can just replace. Now they feel like they are no longer welcome in our country, how long until they pack up and leave?

I'm not naïve and I completely understand that Brexit is a massive undertaking for the government to negotiate, and probably one that none of them really want to be doing. Sadly I fear there is no question that lots of small businesses won't survive Brexit and for that reason we deserve answers sooner rather than later.