The prime minister's Brexit deal is almost as unpopular as the prospect of leaving the EU with no deal, according to a new poll of self-employed workers.
Research conducted by self-employed trade body IPSE has found that the majority of freelancers believe Theresa May's Brexit withdrawal agreement will damage their businesses almost as much as no-deal.
The findings show that:
- 64% of respondents said a no-deal outcome would negatively impact their business;
- 60% said their businesses will take a hit if the proposed withdrawal agreement goes ahead.
This represents a shift in freelancer opinion, compared to similar research conducted a year ago by IPSE. At that time, 44% of freelancers said that Brexit would negatively impact their business.
Now, when asked about their main priorities for Britain's future relationship with the EU, freelancers cited:
- Ensuring UK businesses have access to the single market for services (39%);
- Ensuring free movement of UK citizens across the EU (22%);
- Ensuring UK businesses have access to the single market for goods (10%);
- Restricting immigration from EU nations (6%).
The research also reveals that almost a third (30%) of all freelancer contracts for the last year were for clients based in the EU (excluding the UK).
"The proportion of freelancers worried that Brexit will negatively impact their business has increased significantly over the past 12 months," said Andy Chamberlain, IPSE's deputy policy director.
"This is alarming, because now more than ever the UK needs the flexibility freelancers bring to the economy. The UK's 4.8 million self-employed are the country's smallest and most agile businesses, and they will be crucial to any post-Brexit growth strategy.
Chamberlain said that freelancers are "caught between a rock and a hard place" on Brexit. He said: "They are clearly worried by the prospect of a no-deal, however they also feel the prime minister's withdrawal agreement will freeze them out of future opportunities.
"This is because they fear large companies, who are important clients for them, may relocate their operations because of Brexit. Freelancers may also find it harder to access contracts in the EU. Like everyone else, the self-employed are also worried that their living costs could increase, putting pressure on their finances."