Friday 14 December 2018 9:32 am

As the warning signals flash red, now is the time to back business

When thinking of the great moments of British enterprise, you would be forgiven for being consumed by nostalgia.

The golden age of manufacturing, Victorian industrialists, Alan Turing, the internet, Concorde, the discovery of DNA – what then of today, the Brexit Blues?

Think again. This is the age of the entrepreneur – 99 per cent of all UK firms are small businesses, with a combined turnover of £2 trillion and growing.

This is the engine room of the UK economy that is responsible for real employment and investment. We see brilliant entrepreneurs across all sectors, from tech startups to clinical research, fitness brands to laser manufacturers. We’re backing innovative firms across the nation.

Yet this week in Westminster has been a confidence killer for British business. Political deadlock is causing chaos for companies which want clarity – Theresa May’s decision to postpone the “meaningful vote”, prompting a no confidence challenge by her MPs, adds more fuel to the fire.

There is now real risk of a silent but significant slowdown as business confidence in the UK ebbs, and companies put investment plans on hold. While we hear a lot about the capital requirements of big corporates, the unsung part of the story is the investment prospects for smaller growth firms, which are more sensitively placed when it comes to raising capital.

For these businesses, it’s not a case of having enormous sums of cash to buy the next City high-rise, but about making the decision to take on another employee, open a new factory, or tender for the biggest contract to date.

We need to ensure that motivated companies are not forced to defer action and down tools on their ambitions because of a lack of investment. This would clearly spell disaster for the UK economy. We must avoid the increasing risk of growth capital drying up for our most ambitious firms.

Understanding how we maintain liquidity and back British business in very uncertain times will be key. That is not just something for the Bank of England to be worrying about – we all need to be concerned.

The two immediate priorities for growth companies will be moving quickly to a more predictable landscape and safeguarding a healthy level of funding. Business leaders across the UK will do what they do best and take on the challenges that are coming. They need to know what shape these hurdles will take, and that the money will be there when the going gets tough.

Businesses will continue to create opportunities. Investors need to stand alongside them, not just to maintain momentum, but to increase commitment to funding, and to support even more firms in a post-Brexit Britain.

Let’s not forget that the future long-term wealth of the UK economy will be created by promising businesses of today. In the face of adversity, the temptation for both investors and companies to do nothing and stand on the sidelines will be there, so it is critical that we embrace opportunity and the ambition of growth companies to succeed in the age of the entrepreneur. Now is the time to stand up and be counted.

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.