Half of Britain's social entrepreneurs don't fear a no-deal Brexit, says survey

by Sarah Shearman | @shearmans | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 22 February 2019 15:17 GMT

An anti-Brexit demonstrator protests outside the Houses of Parliament, in Westminster, London, Britain, February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

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There are more than 100,000 social enterprises in Britain, contributing 60 billion pounds ($78 billion) to the economy and employing 2 million people

By Sarah Shearman

LONDON, Feb 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Almost half of British social entrepreneurs believe that Britain leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement will have no impact on their businesses, a survey said on Friday.

Social Enterprise UK, the trade body that represents businesses that aim to do good as well as make profit, surveyed 252 of its members at the start of February.

Britain is due to leave the European Union on March 29 but a divided parliament has failed to ratify a deal on the terms of Britain's exit.

While 48 percent of those surveyed said a no-deal Brexit would not impact their enterprises, a quarter said it would harm their businesses - many of which have sprung up to tackle social ills like homelessness that traditional economic systems have failed to address.

"Social enterprises are already working in broken markets and a broken economic system... Brexit is just another barrier that they have to face in an already challenging environment," Peter Holbrook, chief executive of Social Enterprise UK, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an email.

"We also lack a clear sense from the government about what no deal would mean in practice, this may be lulling businesses into a false sense of security," he said.

The same cannot be said for big businesses in Britain, already feeling the impact of Brexit uncertainty. Several are moving operations overseas and others have warned of the damage it will do to the economy.

"A no-deal Brexit could lead to a recession, loss of funding and loss of talented staff for many social enterprises," said Holbrook.

There are more than 100,000 social enterprises in Britain, contributing 60 billion pounds ($78 billion) to the economy and employing 2 million people, according to Social Enterprise UK.

Social Enterprise UK estimates one in 12 of these businesses receives income in the form of grants or investment from the EU, a total figure worth tens of millions of pounds.

Despite the concerns over funding, 20 percent of respondents said they would increase their investment in Britain to deliver their mission, while only 7 percent said they would consider moving their business overseas in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

To help cope with the potential economic instability a no-deal Brexit would bring, 62 percent of those surveyed said the government should consider cutting taxes for social enterprises that invest in the community. ($1 = 0.7682 pounds) (Reporting by Sarah Shearman @Shearmans. Editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking and slavery, property rights, social innovation, resilience and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)

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