With small businesses accounting for more than 99 per cent of all enterprises in the UK, it is concerning that the latest research from the Federation of Small Businesses shows that almost half (44 per cent) of those in the West Midlands expect their performance to worsen.

More than two-thirds (70 per cent) do not expect their performance to improve over the coming three months, while almost half (46 per cent) in the region expect their performance to worsen. Nationally, 44 per cent think their performance will worsen– this figure is at a five-year high.

Small business owners continue to put investment plans on hold. In the West Midlands just under a third (30 per cent) are planning to increase investment this quarter. Nationally, the figure stands at one in four (26 per cent) – the lowest proportion in five years. More than one in ten (14 per cent) in the region are planning to actively decrease investment.

Those that do business internationally have been particularly hard-hit by uncertainty. Fewer that one in four (24 per cent) report an increase in exports over the past three months.

Once again, this is the lowest proportion in five years.

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Meanwhile, fewer than one in seven (13 per cent) of small employers are planning to take on additional staff in the next three months, the lowest proportion since Q4 2017.

These findings must serve as an urgent wake-up call for policymakers.

Three years of political uncertainty and rising costs have stifled output and left small firms unable to plan, invest and grow.

Yet small businesses still have to make big decisions. Whether that be taking on new staff, purchasing machinery or embarking on sales in a new country – are being put on hold because they have no idea what our trading environment will look like in less than four weeks’ time.

The Government must seize the opportunity to secure a Brexit deal: one that protects free trade, enables access to the right skills and includes a transition period.