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Business owners expect Brexit deal but fear chaos at borders, as they anticipate a tough Christmas 

As Brexit negotiations between Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen meander, the UK business community remains optimistic that a deal will be struck in the coming days, according to fintech business lender MarketFinance, which interviewed 5,000 UK business owners last week. 

The majority (61 per cent) of UK business owners are optimistic that the UK government will be able to strike a Brexit deal with their European counterparts in the coming days.

Looking ahead to life after Brexit, the biggest immediate challenges to follow  would be at the border. UK business owners ranked lack of clarity on new border control processes as the greatest challenge followed by delays in sending and receiving goods, and uncertainty about demand for goods and services in European markets.

On delays, most businesses (46 per cent) anticipate delays of 1-2 weeks in processing goods at borders because of changes to processes

Anil Stocker, CEO at MarketFinance commented: “UK business owners have expressed their confidence that a deal will be done this month and that they will want to get on with business as usual quickly. However, it will be important to get information out to the business community as quickly as possible. Given the difficulties businesses already anticipate during the winter trading period, we need to ensure they have all the means necessary to prepare for a bumpy start to the new year. No one wants to see these businesses derailed from kicking off in 2021”. 

The survey revealed that the Christmas trading period is pivotal (in terms of revenue) for 85% of small businesses. However, most (54 per cent) are anticipating a difficult time ahead. They anticipate revenues to be hit by £53,095 on average, a collective loss to the UK economy of £38.4b. Businesses in the North West and North East reported the highest numbers by region.

This said, two-thirds of businesses have tried to put some financial measures in place to survive the difficult trading period. Most (23 per cent) have turned to a revolving credit facility or invoice finance, whilst others (14 per cent) have turned to increasing their business insurance cover and (14 per cent) renegotiating payments terms with suppliers. In addition to this, business owners have targeted improving their social media presence and website (66 per cent), putting in place a clear operational plan to manage supply chains and distribution (42 per cent), as well as focussing on employee engagement (23 per cent).

Anil Stocker added: “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been indiscriminate. Businesses were hurt in the summer and could take another blow this winter. The Christmas trading period is clearly an important time for UK businesses but given the bleak expectations, I would encourage all owners to seek counsel from their advisors and ensure they are braced for the coming months.”

Finally, Accountants have topped the list for the most supportive advisor in helping businesses deal with fallout from the two national lockdowns. Banks and commercial finance brokers were joint second, followed by alternative finance lenders, who provided them with government-backed loans.

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