HR · 2 December 2015

Self-employed concerned by prospect of EU Brexit

With the planned referendum on EU membership over a year away, the prospect of a Brexit is threatening business confidence amongst the UK’s self-employed

David Cameron’s planned in-out referendum on whether or not the UK choses to remain in the EU is still over a year away, yet the prospect of a “Brexit” is already knocking business confidence amongst the country’s self-employed workforce.

Research findings from Pulse Accounting discovered that 23 per cent of self-employed people in the UK feel that exiting the EU would negatively impact their ability to secure contracting work in the future. The firm’s “Contractor Confidence” survey, also highlighted that the majority of contractors would prefer the UK to remain an EU member.

Commenting on the findings, Pulse Accounting CEO Chris Futcher said: “To date, the focus of concern surrounding an exit from the EU has been on what impact such a move will have on large corporations and SMEs. But we have to widen the debate and ask what effect such a decision will have on the army of skilled self-starters who pump billions of pounds into the UK economy each year and have been a significant driving force behind the country’s economic recovery.”

The survey reveals that the business outlook for self-starters is positive despite concerns surrounding a Brexit. Contract rates for freelancers and the self-employed have increased throughout 2015, and 78 per cent of contractors remain confident that demand for their skills will continue to be needed.

“There is a high demand for people with the right skills,” Futcher added. “We need to make sure the contractors and those thinking of becoming contractors have the support they need to get the job done and are not tied up by red tape.”

The wider business community is divided on whether a Brexit would benefit the UK. Almost 45 per cent of UK exports and services went to the EU in 2014, and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has found that 77 per cent of its members believe EU membership continues to benefit their business, making it easier to sell products and hire skilled staff.

Yet for some small business owners, the UK’s relationship with the EU is unfair and shouldn’t necessarily continue in its current guise. Richard Higginbottom, a partner at UK fuel seller Fred Tarry, said that he believes the UK’s small firms get a raw deal from the EU but a Brexit may negatively impact the wider economy.

“We don’t deal with Europe, but the entire UK economy could be affected if we make the wrong decision,” he said.

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Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.

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