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GFSB survey highlights Brexit fears

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The vast majority of small business owners are concerned about the impact of Brexit on the local economy and their businesses, according to a Gibraltar Federation of Small Businesses survey.

The GFSB recently carried out a survey into current small businesses’ opinion on a number of issues, including training and recruitment, access to finance, growth and performance, exporting activities and the potential exit of the UK from the EU.

With regards the potential exit of Britain from the EU 95% of respondents said they were concerned about the impact of this on the local economy and their businesses.

Of those expressing concern 21% said that they were concerned as their business relied on EU imports and 15% were concerned due to employing non-local EU nationals. Over 80% of members are concerned about Gibraltar leaving the EU.

Another issue that surfaced from the survey responses is the burden of regulation and enforcement, primarily business licensing, with 42% of respondents saying that this was impacting the success of their business.

This follows changes in legislation relating to the introduction of the Fair Trading Act. The GFSB said it is currently consulting with the Government to try and resolve these issues.

A quarter of respondents were struggling to recruit skilled staff, however 80% of businesses were providing professional and academic training and qualifications in order to train up their staff to the required level.

“It has been a tough year for businesses, with a third of businesses experiencing a decline in profits and 27% retaining similar profit levels as the previous year; however 22% saw profitability increases in the same period,” the GFSB said.

The main barriers to growth listed were the economic landscape, increased competition and rising cost of regulation and overheads.

“In the light of increased competitions many businesses are upping their game when it comes to promoting themselves, with the majority of companies using the internet and social media to promote their products and services and a move to conducting as much business as possible from purchasing of goods to conducting market research and customer communication online.”

The GFSB added that any e-government initiatives are also welcome – ‘although there is a long way to go’ 1 in 4 businesses are using the e-Gov portal to pay business licenses, make MOT appointments etc.

“More e-government is however needed.”

The group said that access to finance has improved since the introduction of the Gibraltar International Bank, but 14% of respondents were unable to open a bank account in the past 12 months and 5% struggled to secure loans or long-term finance.

The GFSB is therefore organising an access to finance breakfast event on April 27 to showcase all the different financing options available to businesses.