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Despite the looming prospect of Brexit the overwhelming majority of businesses in the South West looking to export are eyeing Europe as part of their 2017 expansion plans.

That’s one of the headline findings of a far-reaching survey into South West businesses’ growth plans we recently carried out.

Small to medium sized companies were asked about their expansion strategies and what they believed would be the biggest hindrance to those aspirations.

When asked “what will be your biggest barrier to growth?” more than a third (34 per cent) chose the result of June’s EU referendum, which will see the UK withdraw from the European Union as the biggest threat to their plans.

However, when asked “which overseas markets are you considering expanding into?” a full 71 per cent indicated mainland Europe was their main target.

“What this tells us is that while business owners and markets generally dislike the uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote they have no intention of letting that stand in the way of their growth opportunities,” said Partner Shona Godefroy.

She added: “Another significant potential barrier to growth will be the withdrawal of our current free trade agreements within the EU. As soon as possible the Government needs to clarify which new trading arrangements will replace the existing agreements so that businesses can get on and start trading again with confidence across the continent.” 

Other perceived barriers flagged by our “Growth Survey” included access to skilled staff and finance, growing property and IT costs and government red tape.

Shona Godefroy said: “Here in the UK a combination of ongoing red tape and spiralling costs, coupled with the continuing Brexit saga, is holding back a great many businesses who are keen to expand to create wealth and prosperity for the South West.

“However it is positive to see business leaders displaying resilience and entrepreneurial spirit and being ready and poised to enter Europe as a way of fuelling their expansion.”