Over 220 small firms in Yorkshire call for second referendum ‘people’s vote’ on Brexit

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More than 220 small business owners in Yorkshire have given their backing to calls for a second referendum over Britain’s future relationship with the European Union.

The business owners, ranging from small shopkeepers to personal trainers, have all written to their local MP, urging them to back a ‘people’s vote’ on Brexit.

Sulaiman Aslam, who runs his own store selling household goods in Goldthorpe, said: “During the first vote most people had no idea of the outcomes. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about: we can correct our mistake and make a change for the better for all of us.”

The owner of Quids-In is originally from Pakistan and worked as a bus driver before opening his own store.

He said: “We have always considered ourselves part of Europe; they are our brothers. After Brexit we feel discrimination. Why isolate from other Europeans when we should all be in a brotherhood, united against economic adversity?”

Paula Widdowson founded a sustainability consultancy called CSR-I in York nine years ago.

She said: “Brexit impacts in both big and small ways. Business thrives on certainty, so all this uncertainty means no one can make plans, which is damaging.”

Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking 11th-hour concessions on her Brexit deal. Parliament initially rejected her withdrawal agreement with the PM due to put her deal to a meaningful vote by March 12.

Ms Widdowson said: “I know people who have changed their mind based on the deal on offer. The deal we have with the EU is better. Surely we all deserve a chance to measure our views against clear information?”

As it stands, Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, two years after triggering Article 50.

The PM is due to report what progress she has made in talks with the EU to MPs over the next couple of days.

David Johnson, inset, managing director of Leeds-based Tudor International Freight, says the region’s EU traders should keep a close on proceedings in Westminster, in particular on February 27 when fresh attempts to thwart a no deal Brexit are due.

He said: “It could lead to the government effectively losing control of the Brexit process and a highly damaging UK departure without a deal next month being removed from the list of potential outcomes this week, against the Prime Minister’s wishes.

“Mrs May has said repeatedly she won’t rule-out a no deal Brexit or seek to extend the March 29 deadline. This has led to speculation that her strategy is to present Parliament with a straight choice between a no-deal departure and her agreement next month, so most MPs will feel compelled to back the latter.”

UK Finance, the banking and financial services sector trade association, has launched a campaign encouraging SMEs to prepare for potential changes and opportunities following Brexit.

Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: “With less than 40 days to go until the UK leaves the EU on March 29, it’s important for small businesses to prepare for the pressures that may well affect them, especially if we end up with a no-deal Brexit on that date.

“As part of that preparation, we recommend that small business owners and the self-employed talk to their banks or other finance providers as they may well need help to extend overdrafts, seek extra finance or secure extra flexibility for repayment plans.”