Brexit draining confidence of self-employed, IPSE report reveals

Confidence in the UK economy in the fastest growing part of the labour market – highly skilled freelancers – is draining away as Brexit approaches, IPSE’s new Brexit report has shown.

The ‘Brexit deal for the self-employed’ report, released today, reveals that 61 per cent of freelancers believe that the result of the Brexit referendum is the main factor negatively affecting their business confidence.

This is the first time since IPSE has been tracking confidence that concerns about Brexit have overtaken other factors, such as government policy.

Eighty-one per cent of freelancers expect their costs to increase in the lead-up to Britain formally leaving the European Union by 29 March 2019. 

The report also confirms that the UK’s self-employed are paying close attention to Brexit, with the majority (54%) reporting they are concerned about the progress of the negotiations.

The report combines the results of a nationally representative survey of more than 1,000 of the UK’s self-employed, commissioned by IPSE and undertaken by ComRes in late 2017, and IPSE’s quarterly Freelancer Confidence Index for the same period.

The Index – IPSE’s headline measure of freelancers’ confidence – sustained its largest ever fall in the year of the referendum and has remained at near record lows ever since.

Freelancers’ confidence in the UK economy sunk to -43.3 in December 2017, the second lowest levels on record.

Chief Analyst of the Freelancer Confidence Index and Dean of Trinity Business School, Dublin, Professor Andrew Burke, gave this dire warning:

“Freelancers have historically been accurate predictors of wider economic performance. For this leading sector to see a fall in earnings – and actually enter a recession as it did in 2017 – should sound warning bells for the rest of the economy.

Chris Bryce, IPSE CEO said:

“If the ComRes poll is a reflection of the wider economy, we are in for a stormy Brexit. The record decline in the confidence of the vital self-employed sector should be a serious concern for the Government as it enters the final, decisive few months of the negotiations.

“Not only are the self-employed a good indicator for the rest of the economy, they also bring enormous benefits to it. In fact, the flexibility they provide is one of the UK economy’s most significant competitive advantages.

“As this report says, for the sake of this crucial sector, the Government must replace the uncertainty and turbulence we have seen recently with calm, clarity and confidence.”

One in every seven of the UK’s workforce – or 4.8 million people – are self-employed, contributing £271 billion to the economy last year.