News & Insight

Our poll was right: Brexit was close, but leave had it by a nose

Christian Nellemann

Christian gives his thoughts on the fallout from Brexit...

So this is it. Words I could hardly imagine writing: Britain is leaving the EU.

Social media feeds, high streets and offices all over the country are brimming with tension and excitement. As was the case before the vote, we really do not know what happens next.

But remarkably, our poll of more than 5500 small businesses predicted the final result almost exactly.

51.9% vote leave – a small majority with huge consequences

Our poll predicted that 52% of people would vote leave. The final result? 51.9%.

My focus, as ever, is on the interests, needs and ambitions of my small business customers. They, after all, are the backbone of Britain.

A lot of polls suggested that small businesses didn’t want to leave the EU. Indeed, a huge number of polls predicted a huge variety of different things. This is a nation divided – the old and young voted differently, as did urban and rural areas.

But Vote Leave was also a vote against big business. That was clear from the rhetoric, so what can we do in response? Support small business, and that means supporting our local high streets. If that was one of the outcomes of Brexit, who could argue it wasn’t a positive outcome.

It’s the British way to overcome uncertainty

The next few years could, potentially, be challenging. So how do small businesses overcome those challenges?

Rohan Silva recently wrote an excellent piece in the Standard that summarises the kind of calm and rational thinking we all need to take heed of.

Although he favoured remaining in the EU, he thinks that fears about the consequences of Brexit can be combated by British entrepreneurs. He sees innovation as the key, and looks to Britain’s entrepreneurial history for reassurance. But my approach goes further.

I have plans in business like we all do. But I’m an entrepreneur, so what do I do when I hit a bump in the road? I overcome it, because that’s what Britain does, and has always done. We’re pragmatic, so we change course. We regroup, and we come back even stronger. And we all have to do our bit to support small businesses as they navigate this uncertain future.

I’ll be doing my bit to help small businesses this summer by offering free public Wi-Fi to thousands of my small business customers. It’s proven to bring more customers, more loyalty, and ultimately more sales. So here’s hoping innovations like that will help to outweigh any shortcomings from Britain leaving the EU.

I’ll be doing my bit to help small businesses this summer by offering free public Wi-Fi to thousands of my small business customers.

The consequences will vary from industry to industry

When fishermen took to the Thames to wave their ‘Vote Leave’ flags and banners, it was clear that Brexit was a different issue from one industry to another. Some, like the fisheries, had no doubt whatsoever. Others were probably still making up their minds while they were queuing.

Once the dust settles, it’s important to appreciate that everyone’s concerns are legitimate – there was no right or wrong here. The EU was tangibly more beneficial for some industries – and perhaps some people – than others.

So Britain’s response, and indeed the government’s response, needs to be industry by industry. There will be uncertainty for a while yet, but things will settle. And when they do, we all need to make the most of those opportunities that arise.

I have total faith in the small business community. This isn’t their first big challenge – they face life and death decisions every day. They’ll survive, and then they’ll grow – and more will follow. Small businesses always find a way, and so will the rest of us. This is Britain, after all.