Business confidence hits lowest level since the financial crisis

November 6, 2018

Business confidence in UK has fallen to its lowest level since 2008 amid a lack of progress in Brexit negotiations, according to new figures published today.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales’ (ICAEW’s) Business Confidence Monitor index showed a sharp fall in confidence since last quarter from -0.2 to -12.3, lower than after both the 2016 referendum and last year’s general election.

The accountancy institute blamed a lack of progress in Brexit negotiations as one likely reason for the decline, with the figures falling sharply after Theresa May’s Chequers plan was rejected by EU leaders at the Salzburg summit in September.

FTSE 350 companies have a more negative outlook than privately-owned businesses, according to the index, though the decline in confidence is widespread across most sectors and all regions.

Last week chancellor Philip Hammond unveiled his Budget by announcing the era of austerity is “finally coming to an end”, but also set aside a total of £2bn in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Related: 5 ways life could become harder for British people if there is a no-deal Brexit

The survey of 1,000 chartered accountants revealed 42 per cent of businesses were less confident about their economic prospects over the next year, compared with 31 per cent last quarter. Only 22 per cent said they were more confident, compared to 33 per cent the previous quarter.

Despite this, growth in general sales volumes is still roughly four per cent and is expected to remain at this level over the next 12 months.

A closely followed index out today shows that the UK services industry saw its slowest growth since March. The purchasing managers’ index, compiled by IHS Markit and the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply, was down to 52.2 in October from 53.9 in September.

Sharron Gunn, ICAEW executive director, said: “Business confidence is at its lowest point since the financial crisis ten years ago. Leaving the EU and its potential impact is at the front of everyone’s minds.

“This is a difficult time to run a business, let alone finance the major investments the UK economy will desperately need post-Brexit to drive growth. The Budget offered some relief to business but more significant action is needed by government to provide stability and reassurance.”

A government minister today said the UK and EU are close to striking an agreement on financial services access post-Brexit, while Brexit secretary Dominic Raab has claimed a deal is possible by 21 November.

Source: City A.M.

Firms to launch Brexit contingency plans before Christmas

October 22, 2018

The majority of British businesses are preparing to launch contingency plans before Christmas as hopes of a Brexit deal fade.

A survey of 236 businesses for the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) found that many will make “damaging” moves which will include cutting jobs and relocating work overseas.

The survey focused on companies employing fewer than 500 people and it found that 82% will start to implement their contingency plans by December if the Brexit process does not get any clearer.

The news comes as fears grow that the UK could leave the European Union in March without a deal, resulting in tariffs on exports, border checks and travel restrictions.

CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn said the situation was “urgent”, adding: “The speed of negotiations is being outpaced by the reality firms are facing on the ground.

“Unless a withdrawal agreement is locked down by December, firms will press the button on their contingency plans.

“Jobs will be lost and supply chains moved.

Related: What impact is Brexit uncertainty having on the UK economy?

“The knock-on effect for the UK economy would be significant: living standards would be affected and less money would be available for vital public services including schools, hospitals and housing.”

Ms Fairbairn said the uncertainty was “draining investment” from the UK, adding: “From a multinational plastics manufacturer which has cancelled a £7m investment, to a fashion house shelving £50m plans for a new UK factory, these are grave losses to our economy.

“Many firms won’t publicise these decisions, yet their impact will show in lower GDP years down the line.”

According to the CBI, 80% of companies said Brexit had already had a negative impact on their investment decisions, more than double the 36% that said the same a year ago.

Two-thirds said Brexit had affected how attractive the UK was to investors. One in four said it had no impact.

Last week’s summit between prime minister Theresa May and Europe’s leaders made little progress towards a deal and a second summit in November has been called off.

The next meeting is scheduled for December but, even if a deal is reached, there is no guarantee that parliament will approve it.

A spokesman for the Department for Exiting the European Union said: “We are working hard to deliver a deal that works for businesses and remain confident of a positive outcome.

“In the unlikely event we leave the EU without a deal, we have issued over 100 technical notices to help businesses make informed plans and preparations.

“We have engaged extensively with businesses and industry bodies from all sectors of the economy throughout the exit process and will continue to do so.”

Source: Yahoo News UK

Aberdeen ‘best location in UK to start a business’

September 18, 2018

Aberdeen has been named as the best location in the UK to start a business based on factors including survival rates, costs and access to skilled staff.

An index ranking the 30 largest locations put the Scottish city ahead of the likes of London, Manchester and Oxford, thanks to it having the best five-year survival rate for new companies in the UK (54 per cent) and the ninth highest level of start-up growth.

However, Scotland’s largest cities performed poorly in the rankings with Glasgow placed at sixth and Edinburgh ninth in a list of locations where there was the least potential for growth for start-ups.

London, Birmingham and Manchester were bottom of the ranking. Aron Priest, co-founder at printing group Solopress, which compiled the report, said: “Aberdeen has been able to recover from oil and gas setbacks to become a more rounded place to do business.

As the city develops new areas of business focus, opportunities for new ventures grow.” Leicester and Cambridge came in just after Aberdeen in the rankings which also looked at factors such as business rates and the proportion of students as a percentage of the population.

Priest said: “Our findings prove that you don’t need to be in London to make it in the world of business and that there are prosperous places for business all over the UK.”

Earlier this year a report by technology firm Payment Sense also ranked Aberdeen as the best place in the UK based on factors including the diversity of the local economy, quality of digital infrastructure and self-employment rates.

Source: Scotsman

It’s time to move investment in British business up a gear

August 7, 2018

If the UK were as productive in business as it is at winning the Tour de France, our economy would be in a much better shape.

Geraint Thomas claiming the yellow jersey last Sunday means that UK riders have won six times since 2008.

Yet a decade on from the financial crisis, UK business is proving less adept at trouncing our international rivals. On business productivity, we are still far behind our competitors – and are losing sight of the leading pack.

This is not a new problem, and the causes are as much debated as the solutions. But one thing is clear: businesses’ investment in their own performance has been consistently low since the 1990s.

In fact, businesses here spend less on new equipment, factories, and skills than any other country in the G7, despite this being one of the most dependable ways to boost productivity and drive economic growth. At a time when the outlook for the economy is sluggish, interest rates are on the rise and uncertainty still looms large, we must ask: why are firms in the UK failing to invest?

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has just published a report that shines some light on the answer – and many of the widely cited reasons don’t stack up.

Growth in business investment would have been stronger in the absence of Brexit – 4.6 per cent faster, in fact – but this doesn’t explain our historic underperformance, which goes back much further than the last two years.

The declining UK manufacturing base and measurement issues also can’t explain the gap from the pack.

So, what can be done to get the UK back out front?

Firms must pull themselves out of the saddle by adopting readily available technologies and management best practice. And the government can create a policy environment where businesses have the confidence to invest, much like the work of our cycling team’s domestiques.

Our tax system is one of the few levers the government has which is proven to directly affect business investment decisions.

We know that tax incentives for investment work – when they are used well. Capital allowances, R&D tax credits, and the patent box all incentivise capital spending in the UK. We have heard from businesses across the UK about where exactly these measures have an impact.

Take QinetiQ, one of the UK’s leading science and engineering companies. R&D tax credits have already enabled France’s largest wind farm to be installed, using new stealth technology developed here in the UK. This same relief, as well as the UK’s patent box, is enabling £1bn to be spent per year in Britain by a leading pharmaceuticals firm.

And one telecoms business told us that the government’s investment incentives regime is instrumental in helping it keep jobs in science and technology here in Britain.

Yet measures such as these could work harder. While the UK has the lowest corporate tax rate across the G20, the our capital allowances regime only allows businesses to recover 46 per cent of the cost of an asset, compared to an average of 64 per cent across the rest of the G7.

At a time of uncertainty about the UK’s future trading relationship with the rest of the world, maintaining our competitiveness as a great place to invest has never been more important.

So what needs to change?

First, we must acknowledge that it is not simply a question of lowering tax rates, but rather of the need for a stable, transparent, and simple tax system.

Related: Business confidence hits lowest level since the financial crisis

Second, we need to fill the gaps in our current framework, to accommodate changing technologies and a changing workforce. The lack of a strong incentive for businesses to invest in commercial buildings and technology diffusion, and, crucially, the absence of an incentive for companies to invest in firm-specific skills and training are all areas where the UK could move up a gear.

And in addition, the UK should build on its successes, by further increasing confidence in our R&D tax reliefs.

We hope to hear more on these areas when it comes to the government’s Budget in the autumn. Tax and business investment are one of the key ways for the UK to increase its competitiveness, and drive productivity at a national level.

And the prize? Not the yellow jersey of Chris Froome or Geraint Thomas, but a strong economy to the benefit of generations to come.

Source: City A.M.

Brexit and business poll: 3 in 4 finance bosses think firms will be worse off

July 31, 2018

Just one quarter of chief financial officers are optimistic about Brexit’s long-term impact, new survey suggests.

Many of Britain’s financial bosses are more downbeat about our prospects after Brexit than at any other time since the referendum, a cheery new poll has revealed.

Every three months, financial consultancy firm Deloitte gleans the views of more than 100 chief financial officers from major UK-based firms about leaving the EU.

Its latest results, which you can see below, show three quarters believe the long-term environment for business will be worse once we leave, with just 9% believing things will improve.

“In a sign of a more challenging international backdrop CFO concerns around protectionism and a slowdown in the euro area increased in the second quarter,” Deloitte said of the figures.

“Business sentiment continues to be buffeted by the news on Brexit. The mid-year position of the UK corporate sector is defensive and watchful.

“How that changes over the rest of 2018 will be heavily dependent on the unfolding negotiations between the UK and the EU in the next six months.”

Businesses have never backed Brexit: and opposition keeps growing

Now, there are a couple of important qualifiers to the above graph.

First of all, the survey was carried out between 3 June and 14 June, which is before recent talk of a (still unlikely) no-deal scenario hit the headlines, which is hardly likely to have improved their outlook.

That said, we should also point out that businesses have generally been opposed to Brexit all along.

As a case in point, the results of the first poll carried out by Deloitte (which you can also see above) showed just 13% were optimistic about the outcome while 68% were downbeat.

Related: What impact is Brexit uncertainty having on the UK economy?

So even though pessimism is undoubtedly at a record high amongst respondents, the mood isn’t a million miles away from the consensus two years’ ago.

Public faith in the Government is falling far faster

The same can certainly not be said for Theresa May’s Government.

In a separate poll by Sky News, it was revealed that 78% of the public think the Government is doing a bad job negotiating Brexit.

This is an increase of 23% since the poll was last conducted in March.

What’s more, almost two-thirds of those who voted in Sky’s poll now believe we’ll be landed with a ‘bad deal’ when negotiations are complete, up from 51%.

No one knows anything for certain, so what do you think?

Given that Brexit is so divisive, and new developments seem to sway opinion on an almost weekly basis, we should always be wary of making any meaningful conclusions based on snapshots of public (or business) opinion.

As always, we want to point out that the none of the above is an attempt to convince people one way or the other, merely to highlight a stat – or in this case stats – that we find interesting.

So how do the above views tally with your own? Answer the following two poll questions and we’ll soon see how loveMONEY readers’ outlooks compare, and please do share your individual views in the comments section below to explain why you voted the way you did.

Source: Love Money

How to raise funding for your own business

July 27, 2018

The funding landscape

Access to funding is crucial to the growth of the small business sector, which has a combined annual turnover of £1.9 billion, so where should you go for this money?

Traditionally, the usual source of finance for a business was bank loan but things have changed dramatically over the past decade.

The devastating financial crisis resulted in many institutions becoming reluctant to lend. While problematic, it’s helped the development of alternative sources of funding.

We have also seen the emergence of so-called challenger banks, according to Ian Walters, managing director of business banking at Metro Bank.

“We’re committed to supporting businesses across the UK,” he says.

“For the second consecutive year, we have pledged £1 billion net lending to SMEs, helping businesses to expand, recruit and innovate.”

Work out your funding requirements

According to Denise Friend, partner and founder of Friend Partnership, which advises businesses, there are a number of areas to consider when it comes to financing growth.

“You need to make sure you have a sound and coherent business plan that sets out why people should lend to you, what you need it for, and how you plan to repay it,” she says.

It’s also important to build a little extra working capital into your forecasts in case there are unexpected problems along the way.

This could include how your cash flow would be affected if a customer is slow to pay or you don’t hit the expected sales targets.

“Get the right sort of finance for each area of the business,” she adds.

“For example, vehicles should be leased not bought, and asset finance used for plant and machinery. Key to this is making sure that the finance matches the expected useful life.”

Funding options

Business finance is an area that has grown substantially over the last few years, according to Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation, the business support group.

“There are now so many options,” she says. “This is great for small business owners as it means there are plenty of channels through which to raise funds.”

The key is doing your research on each area. “Many start with crowdfunding which is a great way to secure funds and profile,” she adds.

For example, you may be drawn to angel investors, which are usually affluent individuals that provide capital in exchange for a share of ownership.

“You also have working capital from the likes of MarketInvoice and IWOCA, and peer-to-peer lending such as Funding Circle,” says Jones.

“There’s also your business bank.”

Of course, there are pros and cons to each approach. For example, if you’re taking out a loan you need to be wary of when you have to pay it back – and how much it will cost.

“Money doesn’t come for free so if you’re raising money through releasing equity in your company, be wary of how much you’re offering and to whom,” adds Jones.

The key, she suggests, is treating a business partnership as seriously as you would a marriage and use websites such as FundingOptions.com to help determine which meets your needs.

“Look at the terms and conditions before agreeing to deals,” she adds. “It can be better to look for money when you don’t need it, as you’ll be in a better negotiating position.”

Organic growth

The concept is to reinvest profits into your business and expand gradually. The obvious benefit is that this option won’t cost you a fortune in interest.

However, the downside is that growth is likely to be slow – especially when you consider that most businesses take a few years to actually break even.

Although organic growth is arguably the most sensible option initially, once your venture shows signs of promise you’re likely to need a better source of finance.

Support from family and friends

If you have wealthy and supportive family members and friends this can seem like the obvious solution.

They lend you money – either free or at a low rate of interest – and enable you to crack on with your project.

However, what happens if your plan fails? Will it cause a major rift if you can’t return their original investment, let alone make them a profit?

Crowdfunding

Crodwdfunding is one option to start your business (Image: Shutterstock)

An increasingly popular choice. The concept is all about raising small amounts from a larger number of people.

However, the term covers a variety of methods, including peer-to-peer lending, where a business borrows money from a collection of lenders and pays it back with interest.

There is also equity crowdfunding. While broadly similar to peer-to-peer approaches, investors take shares in the business instead of repayments for a loan.

Invoice finance

This is a way of borrowing based on what you’re owed by customers. In exchange for paying a fee, you will receive most of what you’re owed earlier.

This means that you’ll be able to put this money to use rather than having to wait anything up to 90 days – or more in some cases – for invoices to be settled.

As anyone will tell you, cash flow is the lifeblood of any business and you may feel it’s the best option to swallow a charge to ensure money is in your bank account.

Asset finance

This type of lending can be defined in a couple of ways.

The first is providing access to business assets such as machinery, which can be a cost-effective alternative to buying them outright.

An example is hire purchase, where you spread the cost of the items over time by paying in regular instalments.

Related: What to do when your business needs emergency funding

The second definition is asset refinancing, which is where loans are secured against valuable items that a business owns, such as buildings and vehicles.

Funding platforms

There have also been a number of SME funding platforms emerge whose objectives are to bring together lenders and those needing a financial injection.

An example is the one operated by the Federation of Small Businesses that puts its members in front of potential sources of funding.

According to Dave Stallon, the FSB’s commercial director, technology is a great enabler that has helped provide a great foundation for the platform.

“The platform is a good example of how automation and AI (artificial intelligence) can be utilised as a tool that increases efficiency, because it allows getting the ‘right human being’ in front of the customer at the right moment,” he says.

Bank lending

Banks with dedicated relationship managers can not only provide sources of funding but also support as your business grows.

Those with a broad range of products and services are in a good position to help, agrees Ian Walters, managing director of business banking at Metro Bank.

“Banks that put in the time to understand the people behind the business and their vision, are often best-placed to support their lending requirements,” he says.

Summary of your options

The fact is there’s no simple, one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to business funding. It all depends on the type of business and the longer-term goals.

The best advice is to ask around, suggests Emma Jones of Enterprise Nation.

“Surround yourself with support from peers who’ve been there and done it, as well as professionals such as lawyers and accountants,” she says.

Source: Love Money

Warwickshire is best in UK for economic growth

July 23, 2018

Warwickshire is leading the country in business growth – in the face of national uncertainty for future trading conditions.

Coventry and Warwickshire have suffered a drop in business confidence over the Spring, as managers think twice about investment amidst Brexit and trade tariff uncertainty.

But the region can maintain its trade growth in the UK by tackling barriers to business, Coventry and Warwickshire’s Chamber of Commerce has said.

The Chamber and Warwickshire County Council held an Economic Outlook event at the Billesley Manor Hotel in Alcester last week, to look at economic analysis from the last business quarter.

Its Quarterly Economic Survey showed that business confidence dropped slightly compared to January – March. But the region’s optimism is well ahead of the national picture.

‘Economy treading water’

The event heard from Suren Thiru, Head of Economics and Business Finance at the British Chambers of Commerce, and Dave Ayton-Hill, Economy and Skills Group Manager at Warwickshire County Council.

Mr Thiru said the UK economy had been treading water since 2016 and that the 0.2 per cent growth rate in the first quarter of this year was the weakest since 2012.

He said the British Chamber’s forecasts – based on ‘an orderly Brexit’ – were for weak growth in the next few years and that they should act as a ‘wake-up call’ to Government.

But Ayton-Hill said the economy in Coventry and Warwickshire was the fastest growing in the country and was bucking the national trend.

He said: “The figures in this area are very positive and are above the national average.

“Despite there being very real national concerns, the confidence in Coventry and Warwickshire is very high and we know that confidence means companies are more likely to invest.

“Brexit concerns are starting to increase particularly among those companies who export but the mood remains positive.

“Why? Automotive manufacturing, including Jaguar Land Rover and its supply chain – as well as other inward investment – is a strong factor but we’ve also seen growth in logistics and tourism.

Related: Mid-sized businesses outperform rest of UK plc but go unnoticed and unsupported

“But even if you took out automotive, the region would still be performing well as an economy.

“So despite a great deal of uncertainty on a national and global scale, there are huge opportunities to build on here in Coventry and Warwickshire.”

Our region bucking the trend

Ajay Desai, Trade Director at the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “It is great to see Coventry and Warwickshire bucking the trend and I see on a day-to-day basis that companies continue to seek new opportunities to trade overseas.

“The message to the Government has to be that while Brexit dominates the agenda there is plenty that can be done on the domestic front to support business growth.”

Industrial heritage

Warwickshire has many strengths for business – a strong industrial heritage, transport links in the heart of England, and well educated workers leading hi-tech innovation.

Tom Mongan, General Manager of Nuneaton-based manufacturing company Subcon Laser – which employs 35 staff, said: “There are many reasons why I believe this region continues to buck the trend. We have an incredible location, with superb road, rail and air connectivity which is extremely attractive.

Warwickshire
Shot from Subcon Laser (Image: Subcon Laser, Nuneaton)

“And, while there is a wider issue around skills, we are blessed with a good level of skilled workers in this region due to the fantastic manufacturing heritage in Coventry and Warwickshire.

“From the major closures of bigger businesses in previous years, smaller companies have emerged in this sector and that has helped the region to keep those skills and, importantly, pass them on to the next generation.

“We are blessed with two fantastic universities – both of which understand and engage with business – alongside other institutions such as WMG and the MTC, as well as some outstanding businesses that are operating on the global stage such as Jaguar Land Rover, LEVC and MIRA .

“Our Chamber of Commerce is extremely proactive in the support it gives to businesses of all sizes and sectors which, again, helps companies to grow and thrive.

“And, finally, it’s a great place to live too, which is vital when attracting the best talent – with a host of world-class attractions on our doorstep, breath-taking countryside and the City of Culture right in the middle.”

Source: Coventry Telegraph

Investors demand 500 companies disclose more data on employees

July 7, 2018

A group of international investors managing more than $12 trillion has written to 500 of the world’s top companies calling for more information about the treatment of their employees.

More than 100 institutional investors from 11 countries signed a letter sent by the Workforce Disclosure Initiative (WDI) seeking better data on issues such as diversity, workers’ rights and health and safety in their supply chains.

The investors, among them Schroders, UBS, Amundi, HSBC Asset Management, Axa Investment Managers, Legal and General IM, Nordea, Rockefeller & Co, and AustralianSuper, gave the companies a deadline of Oct. 22 to respond.

Coordinated by UK-based pressure group ShareAction, the WDI aims to improve the quality of jobs in the operations and supply chains of multinational companies and is funded by UK Aid from the Department for International Development.

“As companies have been reinforcing their disclosures on environmental topics over recent years, we wish to see a similar effort with social factors,” Matt Christensen, Global Head of Responsible Investment, AXA IM, said in a statement.

“Companies should disclose data that is material, consistent and comparable enough to truly understand their approach to workforce management in their annual reports.”

The letter marks a scaling up of the WDI’s efforts after a pilot year during which it engaged with a smaller group of companies.

“Based on the quality of data collected and currently being reported, companies need to move away from only reporting on their policy intentions and good news stories,” said Vaidehee Sachdev, senior research officer at ShareAction.

“Investors and civil society want to see evidence that companies are proactively improving workforce practices for the betterment of business, workers and wider society.”

Source: Business Insider UK

Supporting space technology start-ups to strengthen the UK economy

July 6, 2018

Support for space technology start-ups will strengthen local economies and encourage the growth of new and more space clusters across the UK.

A successful business incubation programme for space technology start-ups is to be rolled out nationally to encourage the growth of new space clusters in the North West and Scotland and strengthen local economies.

The programme will enable start-ups, who are using space and satellite technologies to develop new products, to gain a competitive advantage in an increasingly fierce marketplace.

Working with space technology start-ups

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA), has supported 67 space technology start-ups at the successful ESA Business Incubation Centre at the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire. Up to now, 59 of these companies have graduated from the centre, collectively raising £39m (~€44m) in investment.

STFC is making it easier for start-ups across the UK to access this support through the inclusion of its other national sites creating a UK-wide ESA Business Incubation Centre (ESA BIC UK).

Dr Sue O’Hare, Operations Manager at the ESA BIC UK, said: “In an increasingly fierce and global marketplace, the companies that survive and flourish are those that innovate. Our mission is to enable start-ups to gain a competitive advantage in their sector using space technology. But coming up with a great idea is just the beginning and turning that idea into a profitable commercial offering is a huge challenge.

“We are extremely proud of the success stories that have already come out of the programme since it began in 2011 and are now looking forward to extending our support to companies at locations across the UK.”

Each of the high-tech locations is associated with a number of specialisms that ESA BIC UK companies can benefit from:

  • At Harwell, there is an established space cluster which includes STFC’s RAL Space and the Satellite Applications Catapult, and which is already home to many space-related companies;
  • Sci-Tech Daresbury has established clusters themed around big data and medical technologies; and
  • ROE has a long heritage in the space, data and satellite industries in addition to the new Higgs Centre for Innovation.

Start-ups can choose their location either according to location or specialism.

Success for the space technology start-ups

Part of a network of 19 successful ESA Business Incubation Centres across Europe, the ESA BIC UK will provide up to 15 start-ups every year with a combination of funding and access to STFC’s world leading technical expertise and business development support. This is in addition to the benefits that being part of a flourishing and unique network of science and innovation campuses can bring.

Successes to date at Harwell couldn’t be more varied, from developing autonomous vessels for monitoring the ocean to a satnav that will fit in a bicycle bell for easier navigation through cities.

For further information about the ESA BIC UK and how to apply visit the website.

Source: Sci Tech Europa

Government’s anti-business bias hurts UK economy: London finance chief

June 27, 2018

The British government’s hostile attitude toward business is damaging the economy and companies will move overseas if they continue to be unfairly attacked for warning about the dangers from Brexit, the City of London’s policy chief told Reuters.

The government’s already strained relations with business further soured over the weekend after a senior minister accused companies of issuing “completely inappropriate” threats to pull out of the country over Brexit.

A day earlier the foreign minister Boris Johnson was quoted by the Daily Telegraph newspaper dismissing business leaders’ concerns about the impact of Brexit and using foul language in a meeting with European Union diplomats.

Catherine McGuinness, the political leader of the City of London, the local government that administers Europe’s biggest financial center, said the government’s relationship with business is the worst since she started working in 1983.

She said the relations between business and politicians are even worse than when taxpayers were forced to spend more than 133 billion pounds ($176.65 billion) bailing out British banks at the height of the 2007-2009 global financial crisis.

“Some of the statements we’ve heard don’t encourage you to think that we are an economy that welcomes business,” McGuinness told Reuters in a restaurant near the Bank of England.

“Business is very frustrated that we are not making progress. Secondly there is a huge amount of uncertainty around, and thirdly, whenever they try to say anything, which they do with care, they are slapped down.”

The souring in relations comes at a critical moment in the Brexit process where many large companies are deciding what operations they may have to move to the continent to ensure they can continue trading with the EU.

A series of companies with major operations in Britain, including Airbus, Siemens and BMW, have voiced concerns about the impact of Britain’s departure from EU, saying a withdrawal without a deal would force them to reconsider their investments.

With only nine months left until Britain is due to leave the EU, little is yet clear about how trade will flow between the world’s fifth largest economy and its biggest trading bloc.

The business minister Greg Clark on Monday attempted to distance himself from some of his colleagues by saying any company and industry that brings jobs to Britain is entitled to be listened to.

McGuinness said she was concerned that time is running out to secure an agreement and the probability that Britain exits the EU without having agreed a divorce deal is increasing.

“You do get the feeling that the sand is running out of the hour glass rather quickly,” she said. “I feel there has been a lot of kicking cans down the road and we are coming up against the wall.”

McGuinness also said she was concerned that the government will end up agreeing a trade deal only for goods, without properly addressing services.

This would help solve the thorny issue of how to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland that could rekindle sectarian violence in the region, but would leave financial and other services out in the cold even though they make up about 80 percent of Britain’s economic activity.

“I am worried that there is a possibility that they will put other parts of the economy above the big engine that the financial and related professional services represents,” she said.

McGuinness, who has traveled to China and the United States in the last year and will visit India soon, said Brexit has undermined Britain’s reputation as a predictable place to do business, forcing the country to prove its value to businesses in a way that it didn’t need to do before.

“They have seen Britain as a gateway to Europe and the pinnacle of success… I don’t think we look particularly stable anymore,” McGuinness said.

Source: UK Reuters