Beyond Brexit: SMEs and the Future of the British Economy

Date: 19th July 2017

Speakers: Stephen Kinnock MP, Martin McTague.

Chair: Simon McVicker

Location: Committee Room 6, House of Commons


SME4Labour held a roundtable discussion in the House of Commons on the role of SMEs in the Brit- ish economy after Brexit. Th e event was chaired by Simon McVicker, Director of Policy and External Affairs at the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), and featured key-note speakers Stephen Kinnock MP and Martin McTague, National Policy Director of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

Stephen Kinnock MP opened by speaking of the increasingly symbiotic relationship between politics and business, and how changes in the political landscape with Brexit would impact upon SMEs. He re-marked that the big FTSE100 companies had their voices heard during the referendum last June, but that SMEs – whose voices would have been more relatable to ordinary voters, and whose interests diff er to those of big business – were side-lined during the debate.

Mr. Kinnock noted that “all that glitters is not gold” – that while the economy may look okay on the face of it with increasing levels of employment, beneath the headlines lie serious, challenging, long-term structural issues, such as regional inequalities, over-reliance on the financial sector and poor levels of productivity. He posited that following the German model, with strong ties between regional banks and SMEs, would be a possible solution to these issues, and that the state should do more to facilitate SMEs and start-ups.

Martin McTague agreed that the interests of SMEs diff er to those of large, highly mobile corporations, and that their interests should be heard more clearly – hence the FSB’s role in persuading government to pursue the most business- friendly Brexit possible. Mr. McTague also spoke about the geographical imbalances within the British economy and argued that one of the key issues for SMEs in a post-Brexit settlement would be access to structural funds to redress this. He also argued that while most SME owners are aware of the need for good regulation, there was a widespread perception at the time of the referendum that EU regulations were poorly designed and poorly implemented.

In the Q&A, Mr. Kinnock speculated whether politics would trump economics in the EU’s thinking with regards to a deal with the UK. He also said that Labour’s General Election manifesto contained some great ideas for SMEs – in particular the £250 billion transformation fund – and that he is currently endeavouring to build a cross-party “coalition of common sense” around Brexit with MPs from other parties.

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