EC4F05 Business Environment

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EC4F05 Business Environment

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EC4F05 Business Environment

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Course Code: EC4F05
University: London Metropolitan University

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Country: United Kingdom


On June 23, 2016, the world witnessed a huge event in the history of Great Britain and Europe. On that day, the citizens of United Kingdom voted for the referendum on whether UK will continue to stay within the European Union or it will leave the Union. The people of UK have been concerned about this decision for a very long time. Majority of people believed that staying within the European Union was hampering their trade and businesses. They also believed that the rules and regulations of EU were restricting their growth as an independent country.
This belief of the UK citizens led to the referendum on the decision of whether UK should remain with EU or not. The political parties were divided on this issue, and they started campaigning according to their agendas.
Former Prime Minister David Cameron campaigned against leaving the EU as he thought that in the times of economic crisis, the country’s progress would benefit if they stay within the Union. The free access to the ‘single market’, duty free imports and exports would be beneficial for the economy as it always was. However, there were opposite ideas also. Finally, the people voted for Exit from the European Union and the world got a new term “Brexit”.
Scotland and Northern Ireland did not support the result of leaving the EU, and they are making plans on how to use the situation in their favor. The effects of Brexit have not yet been fully realized and it is too soon to predict anything. This repost focuses on the effects of Brexit on the small businesses of UK.


‘Brexit’ is the abbreviation for “British exit” from the European Union (EU). It refers to the UK’s vote in a referendum on 23rd June, 2016 to leave the European Union.
In the referendum, the issue was whether UK should stay in the EU or leave. 51.9per cent votes were cast in favor of UK leaving the EU, and 48.1per cent were in favor of remaining in EU. The turnout was 71.8per cent with more than 30 million citizens voting (Hunt and Wheeler 2017).
The breakdown analysis of this vote showed that England and Wales voted to leave EU, while Scotland and Northern Ireland voted against Brexit. The Brexit result hit hard on the value of pound, as it fell to its lowest level against the dollar in 30 years. The British and European economies were shaken. Prime Minister David Cameron resigned. He called for this referendum and campaigned for staying in EU, but his mission remained unfulfilled. Former Home secretary Theresa May succeeded Cameron. She was also against Brexit but never came in the front during the campaign.
The formal procedure of leaving the Union will begin when Theresa May invokes an agreement named Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. It gives both the sides two years to agree to the terms of spit. Theresa May intends to trigger this negotiations by the end of March 2017 and by the summer of 2019; UK is expected to leave the EU. However, in January UK’s Supreme Court ruled that the government requires Parliament’s approval for invoking Article 50. Hence, the Brexit bill made its way through the House of Commons and got approved by the House. On March 1st, the House of Lords guaranteed the rights of the EU citizens already living in the UK. The bill is still waiting to become a law. It is still difficult to predict how long it would take Britain to leave EU, even if it gets two years to decide the terms and condition, as Article 50 has never been used before. The terms of exit will have to be agreed upon by 27 countries that form the EU. As long as UK is still a member of the EU, the laws and treaties will be valid but UK will not take part in any decision making (Dhingra et al. 2016).
The British, who supported for Brexit, had opinions on several factors, such as, competitiveness of the British industries in global market; debt crisis of the EU and immigration crisis in Europe. One of the key issues was the survival of the British industries in the face of global competition. They wanted to have an independent business in the international market. After the Brexit happened, the citizens were confused about the effects of it. However it is too soon to make any prediction (Whillier 2016).
Impact on small businesses:
The UK government has defined a small business as the one with less than 250 employees. Companies House has defined a small business as one with less than 50 employees and revenue under £6.5 million and medium business with less than 250 employees and revenue under £25.9 million. It has been projectedthat approximately 15.6 million people are employed in almost 99 per cent of UK’s small and medium businesses (Willier 2016).
Experts have been divided in their opinions on which side the effects of Brexit would go – positive or negative. Some of the things got clearer soon, such as, the fall in the value of real estate along with the plunge in the value of pound (Isaac 2016). A study, done by Telegraph Small Business Connect, shows the opinions of some small business owners regarding the effects of Brexit on the small businesses.
The performance data on GDP shows that for the period of July to September there has been 0.5per cent expansion in economy, 2 per cent more than expectation. Jonathon Watson, chief analyst at currencies.co.uk analyses the effect of Brexit on the SMEs (Gough 2016). He says that in the initial months after the referendum, there has been an uncertain situation in the economy of Britain. However, the predictions of the negative effect have not been effective as expected. The economic growth was 0.7 per cent in quarter 2 while it fell to 0.5 per cent in quarter 3. On the forefront, the fall in GDP would lead to an impact on the overall activities of the small businesses and on the purchasing pattern of the consumers.
The effect of Brexit would be felt for years to come. Everybody is in a mode of “wait and see” approach. The leaders of all types of businesses are facing uncertainties. The large businesses may cope up with the situation, but the small ones will face many challenges. In the EU, thereis a single market, where the member countries can trade freely without any import or export duties. This regulation makes easy ways to trade between the countries, and UK, along with other member countries took advantages of this rule till date. UK made billions of pounds by trading in that market. However, it can still access the market until UK Prime Minister Theresa May triggers Article 50 in 2017 (Dhingra et al. 2016).
The uncertainties regarding the access to the single market of EU have made the pound weaker in the global market. The weaker pound throws maximum challenges to the GDP and the small businesses of the country. Firstly, it will drive up the prices for imports and push down the prices of exports. This will make the price rise in the country for the imported goods. Secondly, the overall inflation in the economy will rise. This will hit the small businesses more due to the potential customer loss (Whillier 2016). Thirdly, as firms raise their prices of goods and services, then the wage of people should go up as well to combat the situation of rising prices. However, wages will not rise faster than the prices. This will make people spend less. Therefore, the overall volume of business will fall. Fourthly, the amount of loans to the small businesses from the European banks will decrease. At the same time,the rate of interest will rise. That will make it difficult for the small businesses to survive in the competitive market (Jensen and Snaith 2016).
However, the small businesses had to go through many red tapes to be able to sell their products in the single market of EU. Hence, they supported the Brexit to come out of those strict regulations. It is possible that they could sell easily in the international market but, the uncertainties regarding the Brexit may affect the export businesses right now, as customers became skeptical about the UK market. The price rise of the British goods will deter some of the customers from buying the products. This is bound the affect the economy in the negative manner, until the terms and conditions are settled properly. Hence, even a very small adjustment period will not suffice for the small businesses and they will suffer big time (Kraemer-Eis, Lang and Gvetadze 2013).
As per the report of The Telegraph (Isaac 2016), the Brexit is yet to affect the businesses in large scale. More than 50 per cent out of 1300 companies surveyed by Company Check, said that they have not been affected so far. 30 per cent reported a negative impact, while 15per cent companies reported of a positive impact. However, many of the SME owners are confident about a positive impact, although, it will not be realized too soon.
The effect of Brexit on the economy:
The manufacturing sector achieved a boost due to a fall in pound, although weaker pound does not help all other businesses. Smaller businesses are more vulnerable to shocks as the field of operation is much smaller. Unlike larger businesses, smaller firms struggle to get loans or equipment or they cannot easily diversify their business to generate profit. According to Kierzenkowski et al. (2016), falling GDP also results in a difficult position for the smaller firms especially if they import from other nations. It is due to the fact that the value of pound has fallen and it purchases lesser goods than before.
Geographical location also has effect on the small businesses. If a particular region falls behind the economy, then the businesses situated in that region also suffer.
Again, in most cases, the supporting businesses of a larger business are usually small. For example, the IT enabled services firms. If the main company suffers due to a fall in business, then the subsidiary firms also struggle to keep up. Due to Brexit, there has been a downfall in the business of all types in the initial months, but whether that would be continued in the long run, is a matter of concern (Card 2016).
Categories of small businesses in UK:
Small businesses in UK can be classified into the following categories: non-employee business, main street business, suppliers and high-growth business (Mills 2015).The survey done by The Telegraph finds out how the small business owners are anticipating the effects of Brexit on their businesses.
The manufacturing assembly businesses will suffer due to Brexit because these units usually imports parts of a good from other nations and assemble those to make a product. Due to a weaker pound, the imports will become more expensive and cost of production will rise. The competitiveness of the firms will fall. The trade deals with other countries in EU will become costlier. The access to skilled workers from other countries will also affect the assembly industry in a negative way. It will be a loss for those businesses if they cannot hire skilled migrant workers or keep existing migrant staffs at a lower cost, since there is a shortage in the pool of native workers due to lack of proper education and experience (Coulter and Hancké 2016).
The tech-toy manufacturing business has seen a boom in their business. This industry has a huge international market. A fall in pound has made their products cheaper in other countries, especially in US, Australia,Canada and some parts of EU. Hence, exports of such products have increased. In that way, the brand Britain can be maintained and promoted overseas (Bridge and O’Neill 2012).
The small hotel industry with very less number of employees is also classified as small business. It has been anticipated that due to a fall in the pound against dollar and sterling, the tourism industry will be benefitted. More people will visit from other countries and business will grow (Gordon 2016).
Another potential challenge of these businesses is the EU funding gap. Within the European Union, the access to funding was easier. Many British businesses run on the EU funding. After Brexit, the possibility does not look good for these businesses. There is also no guarantee that the British government would replace those funding. Hence, many small businesses could fall into danger due to lack of capital (Grant 2016).
A potential opportunity is relaxation of employment rules. After Brexit, the British employers hope not to follow the EU laws for hiring employees and that will bring more flexibility in the companies (Cowling, Liu and Ledger 2012).
The import businesses will face challenges due to the fall in the value of pounds. When the costs are in Euros and incomes in pounds, then businesses will face losses. Then they will push the burden on the consumers. This will lead to a rise in prices and the customers will have to pay extra money for the imported goods. Hence, there will be change in the custom rules, and whether it would be complicated or easier is matter of time to decide (Dhingra and Sampson 2016).
Hence, it can be said that the effects of Brexit is yet to be realized. It is too soon to predict anything positive or negative. In the economy while some businesses are having potential opportunities, others are facing challenges to cope up with the effects of leaving the European Union (Halme and Korpela 2014).
Impacts of environment on the small businesses of UK:
Effects of environmental regulations on the employment and productivity :
Environmental rules and regulations can decrease jobs and productivity by small quantities, especially, in pollution- and energy-intensive sectors, when the business makes a transition towards an environmentally cleaner process (Brammer, Hoejmose and Marchant 2012). Jobs within the nation are likely to be effected most than across the borders due to low relocation barriers. Government policies for labor mobility such as, flexibility in labor markets, reasonable housing, education and training of the workforce can reduce the costs of environmental regulations. The effects on jobs and productivity are greater in the long run as the macroeconomic factors are adjusted (Dechezleprêtre and Sato 2014).
Impact of environmental regulations on international competitiveness:
According to Blackburn, Hart and Wainwright (2013), it has not been proved that strong environmental regulations deteriorate global competitiveness. It is applicable for UK’s small business too. The environmental regulations create less impact on the trade and investment compared to other factors such as, the quality of the domestic workforce and market conditions. Hence, it can be said that, UK’s small business could be less competitive due to other economic factors rather than environmental regulations.
The cost benefit analysis of environmental regulations: 
Roxas and Coetzer (2012) say that environmental regulations also have their cost-benefit analysis. The benefits of the regulation should outweigh the costs. The policies regarding saving the environment often include adverse effects on the employment, such as, job cuts. Such policies are bound to affect the small businesses more although those businesses have lesser impact on the environment.
Environmental regulations induce the invention and innovation for the greener technologies, which becomes difficult to implement for the smaller businesses. Although, the new techniques have wide economic benefits, and promote more economic growth, the research and development for the new technologies are costly, which many of the small businesses cannot afford due to lack of fund (Wilson, Williams and Kemp 2012).
Sustainable development and effect on small businesses:
To understand the impact of environment on UK’s small businesses, theories of sustainable development can be applied. Nested dependencies model represents the mutual dependencies of economic, social and environmental factors. It shows that the economy and society are the subsets of an environment (Ambec et al. 2013). Without the environmental factors, the society as well as the economy cannot exist. Hence, whatever be the social and economic activities are, those have deep impacts on the environment (Sustainable-environment.org.uk 2016).
Figure 1: Nested Dependencies model of sustainable development
Source: Author
On the other hand, the people of the society decide the methods of economy, that is, which economic model should be used. If one is not working, then it can be changed to another (Barbier 2012). The event of Brexit can be represented in this way. The British thought the economy under European Union was not going in the desired direction, hence, they wanted to change the economic conditions in the country by leaving the EU. All of these are interconnected. Change in economic conditions has significant effect on the society which is a subset of the bigger environment (Williams and Schaefer 2013).
This can be explained in terms of GDP of a country. The best measure of a country’s growth is the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). To achieve a sustainable development, the resources of the country need to be utilized in the optimum way, stability and competitions need o be promoted, workforce should develop proper skills to put forward their best and produce the best quality products and reducing the impacts on the environment at the same time (Deutz, McGuire and Neighbour 2013). The effects of the economy on the environment are in terms of energy consumption, pollution and waste materials of the production process as well as waste of resources. To improve the GDP, more goods and services need to be produced. This brings along the damages to the environment to some extent, which every country should consider about reducing (Walker and Jones 2012).
It has been found that UK’s GDP has improved after Brexit, quite opposite of what was predicted. The National Statistics found that the services sector mainly led the growth, followed by communications and online retailing and transport, that expanded by 2.6per cent. Finance sector expanded by 0.8per cent in every quarter (Inman 2016).
The government of UK recognized some economic factors to tackle the problems of environmental issues (Sustainable-environment.org.uk 2016). The factors indicating economic growths are inflation rate, investments in public and private assets, government debt, exports, imports and trade, productivity of the country, competitiveness in local and global markets and level of money circulating in the economy. Waste management, reducing and managing energy and water consumption and infrastructural development, can handle the impacts on environment. It has also been proved that the way the larger businesses affects the environment and tackle those issues, is different from the ways that the small businesses adopt. The environment also has some significant impacts on the small businesses that have been discussed above (Elliott 2012).
The types of businesses to be affected by Brexit:
As per the statement of Busch and Matthes (2016), Brexit has damaged the businesses even before the Prime Minister Theresa triggers the start of United Kingdom’s separation from European Union. After Brexit it can be stated that it made a negative impact on the small scale businesses. The growth of the manufacturing was affected by the weaker pound caused by Brexit. A decrease in production for several businesses would in turn reduce the revenues of the country. One way to improve the production of United Kingdom, the country would eliminate the necessity to pay the increasing costs needed by the overseas suppliers (Dagnis, Jensen and Snaith 2016). This is the big investment for each of the business in order to make the position of the business improve and it is depending upon the size as well as nature of the business. On the other hand, the businesses, which currently utilize the UK manufacturing, would hold in the strongest position within the United Kingdom.
On the other hand, a current survey described that post Brexit optimism in the Britain manufacturing is at the lowest position from the year of 2009. During this period, the economy was suffering from global recession. Brexit gives United Kingdom a new opportunity for the organizations to improve the talent. Beaumont, Walker and Holliday (2016) opined that a regulation is a binding of legislative principle. It gives the citizens of the European Union positive rights over the national government, which has not incorporated the reliable theories.
In the words of Begg and Mushovel (2016), Brexit also made an indirect impact on the financial performance of the economy. Therefore, this would make a negative effect on the small-scale enterprises. The employees would not will to work in the organization. This case is associated with the working time directive that provides the employees lower rest periods. As per the business forecast within the country, it can be stated that the pound would sink up by 30 percent after Brexit. Most predictions have plumed from 18 percent to 20 percent (Busch and Matthes 2016).
On the other hand, Beaumont, Walker and Holliday (2016) opined that with the referendum on the membership of United Kingdom with European Union will take place before the year of 2017. As a result, it can be predicted that the sales of the British businesses will be decreased after Brexit. It is known that at the post Brexit period, the markets of European Union would make a free trade agreement with United Kingdom. Therefore, the exporters would get the benefit as they do not have to pay the tax or extra burden (Begg and Mushovel 2016). This free trade would increase the employment of the countries. Therefore, the trading relationship between United Kingdom and the markets of European Union would be improved.
Economic uncertainties of Brexit have an impact on the small businesses in UK. The experts predict growth in the GDP of the country in the recent times, and that includes both the small and large firms. However, the scenario seems not that positive for the smaller businesses. There is a drop in the number of smaller businesses expected to grow in the coming years (it has reduced more than half, to 36per cent in 2016 from 56 per cent in 2015) (Pisani-Ferry et al. 2016).
To improve the conditions of the smaller businesses, there are a few recommendations:
In the words of Rodionova (2016), the smaller businesses should opt for external finance to grow. As the economy is changing, larger firms have the capital and infrastructure to grow accordingly, but, the smaller firms lack adequate funds to make necessary changes immediately. Thus, it would be helpful for the small businesses to borrow from external sources to finance these changes. The Bank provides debt finance of up to £2 million under the Help to Grow programmes to the small businesses.
The small businesses must improve their productivity levels through improvements in the leadership and entrepreneurial skills. There are eight innovative projects to enhance the productivity levels of the firms. There are some management development programmes, such as, leadership training, online and offline, and mentoring programmes, exclusive for different types of businesses. Small businesses should consider for such programmes to give internal trainings to the employees for better management and increase in productivity level.
The management of the smaller businesses should revise their policies of employing workforce. After Brexit the flexibility and mobility of the workforce become limited. Hence, they should choose local people for employment. It will boost the economy of the regions where the firm is situated.
These businesses should also focus on proper human resource management and cost cutting along with making profits. They should change their strategies to more competitive and suitable one to balance the employment levels, wages, raising prices of goods and services and managing investment plans (Pay 2017).
The smaller businesses should enroll for the Catalyst Project, by the UK government and Inverness College UHI. That project involves experienced managers and entrepreneurs from other businesses to supervise and inspire the smaller firms to develop strategies to grow during the uncertain times.
There are support programmes by the UK government for the smaller businesses situated in remote regions. Since, the access to the areas is difficult, the smaller firms often struggle to survive. Thus, they should opt for the support programme, which will create a pilot group consisting smaller employers, who would try to create and test new methods for easy access to the regions and also to the businesses. This would help the businesses to grow and sustain. They should also test the existing support system to check whether that is appropriate and relevant for the smaller businesses (Inman 2016).
The smaller businesses tend to ignore the needs for trainings, especially for leadership and management. They would prefer to invest in technical or financial programmes. However, it is important to consider the need for training in the areas of management and leadership programmes as that would help to manage the operations of the smaller businesses more efficiently (Elliot 2016).
There is need for commercialization of new goods and services of the small businesses. To reach a bigger customer section, the small businesses must make suitable marketing plans; else, they cannot make profit and grow.
Brexit makes the British goods and services more competitive in the international market except the EU market. The fall in the value of pound makes exports cheaper and imports costlier. The smaller businesses must take advantages of this situation by increasing production level with the help of raw materials produced locally. However, UK businesses will be less competitive within the EU market due to higher tariffs and trade barriers.
The small businesses must make the most use of the removal of red tape after the terms and conditions are decided. This would ease out the strict regulations on trading of the small businesses in the single market of EU.
European customers are still a big market for the small businesses of UK. The key issue after Brexit could be that the BSI standard goods may not have free access to the EU market. Hence, there would be less focus on the EU market and more focus on the domestic market. The smaller businesses can now concentrate on the emerging markets in the domestic front. It will also have the independent access to the international market which could help them to grow more competitive. It could be a driving force for the small businesses of UK for trade and investment (Bernard 2016).
The current data on GDP shows that UK economy is growing even in the face of a huge change, that is, Brexit. It shows that rate of growth of economy is 2 per cent higher than expected. But the total rate of 0.5 per cent represents the decline in the economy. It is down in quarter 3 from 0.7 per cent in quarter 2. Although, it is very early to predict the consequences of Brexit, as it is going to be a long drawn process.
The small businesses are still confident that the situation has not changed yet and they will change their strategies over time to protect themselves from the negative effects of the future.
Diversifying of business is the most reasonable strategy in the times of uncertainty. The small businesses must focus on diversifying out of or into different markets if any big customer or supplier faces challenges.
A fall in the value of pound is bad for almost all types of businesses, especially for importing ones. The time after Brexit is the time for price negotiations in the market for UK. The businesses should use the ‘forward contracts’ that allows the businesses to fix the exchange rates for the next 18 months. It would provide certainty in business operations in such challenging time. However, in the past few months, it has been clear that Brexit is not totally bad; it has some positive sides too.
The world does not stop rotating overnight, as the businesses also do not stop operating over night. Until the Article 50 is triggered and new policies are being made, none of the terms has been changed with immediate effect. The immediate effects on the economy were the huge depreciation of pound against sterling and a movement regarding the referendum in the country. Nevertheless, in the long term, the exit from the European Union, the biggest trade partner of UK will definitely affect the small businesses in a negative manner, since those are not strong enough to cope up with the situation as smoothly as the bigger businesses.
In the coming years, many challenges are waiting for UK. The small businesses must utilize this time for future planning and changing game plans for surviving in the time of uncertainties.
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