BREXIT BOOST: Business confidence in British economy SOARING since vote to Leave...

BREXIT BOOST: Business confidence in British economy SOARING since vote to Leave EU

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Data from small firms found that optimism has bounced back to the highest level since the referendum vote to leave the EU last summer.

The survey of more than 1,000 members of the Federation of Small Businesses showed that more felt confident about their prospects than were pessimistic.

And the results were announced after another day of surging share prices on the Stock Exchange. The FTSE 100 share index last night closed at a record high for the ninth day running, breaking a record which has stood for nearly 20 years.

Brexit supporters last night said upsurge in confidence showed that the legacy of the Remain campaign’s scaremongering campaign about the potential threat to the economy from voting to leave the EU was wearing off.

Former Tory Cabinet minister John Redwood said: “It’s great news that businesses are now responding to the confidence of the consumer and strength in the UK economy.

“All we have to fear is fear itself, and their is no need to be afraid.”

Two happy businessmenBritain finished the year as the strongest advanced world economy, according to Change Britain

The Federation of Small Businesses publishes its index of confidence among its membership four times a year.

UK small businesses are ambitious and want to make the most of it

FSB Chairman Mike Cherry

In the latest index, its measure of confidence stood at +8.5, up from -2.9 in the previous three month period. The measure had reached +8.6 last year before the referendum was held in June.

The Federation said the latest snapshot of opinion confirmed that the UK’s small firms were upbeat about their prospects in 2017.

FSB Chairman Mike Cherry said: “We are delighted to see confidence bounce back at the end of 2016, effectively wiping out the fall we saw over the course of the year in the run-up to the EU referendum and its immediate fallout.

“The current economic outlook seems brighter, and UK small businesses are ambitious and want to make the most of it.

“Small exporters continue their strong rise, as UK goods and services become more competitive overseas and small businesses go out to find new markets and new customers.”

He added: “Despite the overall positive picture, our members still face many challenges as rising costs squeeze margins even further. The falling pound is driving up the price of imports and rising oil prices are being reflected in higher fuel costs. These inflationary pressures and price competition are hitting the bottom line hard with the majority of small firms seeing their profits continue to fall.

“Our members tell us they are maximising their opportunities in this current positive economic climate.

Chancellor Philip Hammond talkingSmall business have called on Philip Hammond to make his next budget pro-business

“But with costs rising, they will need support for their confidence to translate into new economic growth and jobs.

“As policy makers prepare for Brexit negotiations and look to small firms to contribute to the UK’s economic success, we would urge them to be ready to act if trading conditions deteriorate.

“We also call on the Chancellor to make the 8th March a full-throated pro-business Budget, and believe an increase in the Employment Allowance, to help small firms boost job creation, would be a good place to start.”

Tory Small Business Minister Margot James said last night: “It’s great news as we start 2017 that Britain’s small firms are feeling more confident, growing their operations and making new hires. This Government will continue to give them an environment to thrive in, where they can meet the challenges and make a success of leaving the EU.”

The FTSE-100 index finished up 0.53% yesterday at a new peak of 7275.47, bettering the eight-day winning streak recorded in May 1997 as Tony Blair’s Labour won the general election.

Joshua Mahony, of City analyst firm IG, said: “The FTSE 100 has again had an outstanding day, with the index gaining from the first minute to the last as it reached new all-time highs once more.

“The fact that we are seeing the index hit these new highs in such a fearless manner says a lot about the potential for further gains.

“Interestingly we have seen both Trump and May providing positive news for the respective US and UK indices, yet for very different reasons.

“While Trump has boosted US stocks by setting out a positive outlook for the future, the strength of the FTSE has been largely down to the pound devaluation associated with fears over a hard Brexit outcome.”

Chloe Westley, a spokeswoman for the full Brexit-backing pressure group Change Britain, said: “Small businesses have every right to be optimistic about our future outside the EU.

“Britain finished the year as the strongest advanced world economy, record numbers of people are in work and companies from across the globe have continued to make major investments into the UK since the referendum.

“There are a host of opportunities for businesses large and small in leaving the EU, from better regulation to striking trade deals with the fast-growing economies of the 21st century.

“This will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in a range of industries and help spread economic prosperity throughout the UK.”

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