Less than 12% of businesses within the UK’s fire safety sector believe that Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) will positively affect business in the coming months and years. This is one of the central findings of a thorough survey conducted by the Fire Industry Association (FIA) on Friday 24 June.
The survey polled FIA members’ views on the EU Referendum result. There were 179 responses from businesses across the UK who exhibited a strong view on the uncertainty of the future of the UK as a whole, and what might happen next for organisations.
“The immediate uncertainty appears to have already had the effect of delaying investment decisions, which will of course impact on construction and other projects,” suggested one interviewee. “The long-term future is rather less clear, and would depend upon the exit ‘deal’ reached with the EU.”
In other instances, it seems as though the decision to leave the EU has already had an impact on some businesses, as uncertainty about the future is causing a level of caution surrounding key decisions.
With The Financial Times reporting that ‘the pound slumped to its lowest level in 30 years on Friday, tumbling as much as 13%’, and many banks expressing their concerns for financial investments in the future, it’s perhaps no wonder that many businesses are now reconsidering their plans for the future.
“[Our] clients and consultants appear to be cautious about future works at this time,” said another responder to the survey. “We have already noticed a severe drop in enquiries.” Others are worried that the decision to leave the EU will lead to a further recession in 2017. That would be the second recession in the UK within a decade, following the more recent period of relative stability that most businesses have enjoyed until this point.
“The immediate impact on the economy will be negative, with reduced investment by overseas firms and the potential for recession in 2017,” said one business questioned by the FIA.
Little or no impact on business
However, other responders to the survey suggested that the breakaway from the EU will have little to no impact on their businesses, particularly so if they only operate within the UK or on a local basis.
“All our work is regional, typically within England and involves UK manufactured products. We cannot foresee any reason why leaving the EU will affect our company,” replied one business. “We only operate locally,” said another. “Unless there are changes away from EN54, it would be difficult to see where this may affect us.” A further respondent stated: “We only install within the UK so cannot see any problems at this stage.”
The results of this survey suggest that, much like the divide running up and down the entire UK between the Leave and Remain voters, who voted 51.9% to leave the EU and 48.1% to remain, members within the FIA depict a similar trend. Of those that were polled, 43% stated that the vote to leave the EU would have a negative impact on their business, while 45% affirmed there would be no change and that business would continue as usual.
With the majority of respondents having a fire-related turnover of £1 million or less, the survey clearly captures a snapshot of the opinions of SMEs within the fire industry, as only just over 11% of those questioned feel that the decision to leave the EU will ultimately benefit their business.
The most common key word throughout all the comments analysed by the FIA is ‘uncertainty’ about the future. There’s clear concern over investments already made, and whether Europe would still continue to trade with the UK following our future exit from the EU.
Of the 11.17% group, some comments were clearly in favour of leaving the EU. “Short term, I don’t see there being too much effect. Longer term, I think UK business will benefit from leaving the EU.” Another respondent explained: “The UK’s economy is strong enough to survive without the EU.”
Political uncertainty ahead
Other respondents could only speculate or otherwise suggest how business may or may not change. “I don’t see that being in the EU has any current effect on business, so why would the situation change?” questioned one responder. “There could be more money available, less regulation from Europe and better standards,” said another.
However, despite this, many respondents to the survey who submitted their answers on Monday morning, following the full impact of the media coverage over the weekend, spoke of the doubt about the future now that David Cameron has announced his plans to step down as Prime Minister.
With delays to the actual negotiations about leaving the EU and no clear path as to who will take the lead in negotiating the Terms and Conditions of Britain’s exit, there’s likely to be a huge lack of clarity for all in the coming months.