Wednesday 18 May 2016 11:35 am

EU referendum: What Brexit means for the mid-market


I am a reporter at City A.M. looking at the stories, people and data behind political events from the UK, Europe and further afield. I also write about infrastructure and transport, as well as broader issues around global business.

I am a reporter at City A.M. looking at the stories, people and data behind political events from the UK, Europe and further afield. I also write about infrastructure and transport, as well as broader issues around global business.

Follow James Nickerson

A vote in favour of Brexit presents many challenges to business but the mid-market, niche by nature and agile by necessity, is well placed to adapt.

Indeed, it is fundamental that it does so: mid-sized businesses are only going to increase in their importance to the overall economy, forecast to be the fastest growing segment until 2020.

Our recent research, Make way for the middle: The future shape of the UK economy, reveals that mid-sized businesses contribution to GDP is predicted to increase an impressive 18 per cent over the next four years, compared to a steady eight per cent increase for large businesses, and a decrease for small businesses.

With this in mind, what would Brexit mean for the growth prospects of this fundamental segment?

Access to an international marketplace

EU membership provides British businesses with access to the single market. Brexit could result in increased UK-EU trade costs as well as excluding the UK from any deeper integration (such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the US). Ease of access to the single market is very important for UK-based multinationals with pan-European operations.

However, this is less important to the high-growth sector of the mid-market which, helped in no small part by the ability to adopt new disruptive technologies faster than larger rivals, is exporting more heavily to other European countries, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

Further, many mid-sized businesses have built up their presence abroad through the products and services that they offer, showing that geography is also not always the dominant feature in attracting business from overseas. Highly skilled, innovative sub-sectors (such as high-tech, life sciences and bio-pharma) and emerging brands are reaching out beyond regions and national boundaries, Brexit or not.

Access to capital

Access to capital is of particular importance to the mid-market as it is growing faster than small and large businesses in nearly all regions of the UK. The OECD has predicted that foreign investment in UK businesses, and research and development could decline in the event of a Brexit. It is also likely that access to EU funding initiatives would be restricted.

Mid-sized businesses therefore would need to look elsewhere for their funding and consider other available options. For example, the recent growth of alternative models (such as crowd-funding and peer-to-peer lending) provides an increasingly wide array of choices for the mid-market. Is it also supported by AIM, the most successful growth market in the world and a natural target for funding mid-market businesses. Access to the junior market of the London Stock Exchange provides a flexible and responsive system of regulation specifically geared towards the needs of companies in the mid-market.

Access to talent


The mid-market, like all parts of the UK economy, is dependent on talent. An exit from the EU could result in lower levels of immigration, which would lead to a loss of skills, the reduction of technical progress and a risk to growth prospects.

Business leaders need to plan ahead for such an eventuality because there is already an existing skills shortage within the mid-market and anything which threatens to compound this situation could stop mid-sized business from stepping out of the shadows of the corporate behemoths and small-scale start-ups.

The consequences and impact of a Brexit are very uncertain and would depend on specific policies adopted by the UK after the event. The mid-market is, however, better placed than larger or smaller businesses to adapt and make the most of new opportunities.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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