• 47% of Yorkshire businesses believe a domestic second wave of COVID-19 poses a bigger threat than a no-deal Brexit, according to a BDO LLP poll released today
  • 90% of Yorkshire businesses think the Government will make progress on its ambition to ‘level up’ the UK regions, despite the difficulties of the Coronavirus pandemic and Brexit.

A domestic second wave of COVID-19 poses a bigger threat to Yorkshire businesses than a no-deal Brexit, according to the monthly Rethinking the Economy survey of 500 mid-sized businesses.

The poll – conducted by accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP - revealed that companies are more concerned about the impact of the ongoing global pandemic, despite the country entering the final three months of an agreed transition period after Brexit.

The UK will leave the EU's customs union and single market on 31 December, regardless of whether a new trade deal is agreed and ratified. However, only 29% of respondents stated that a no-deal Brexit was a more immediate risk to the UK economy – a sentiment replicated across the regions.

Commenting on the findings, Terry Jones, partner and head of BDO in Yorkshire, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic clearly presents an ongoing threat to Yorkshire businesses, as they continue to contend with tightening Government restrictions and the reintroduction of local lockdowns in many of the region’s boroughs.

“With very little detail on what a potential Brexit deal could look like – and how comprehensive and far-reaching it might be – it’s clear that Yorkshire businesses have placed Brexit further down on the agenda, with the topic not even ranking in the top three business and operational concerns. However, with the clock ticking, it’s essential that companies prepare themselves for life outside of the EU, addressing key areas such as supply chains, workforce, VAT registrations, processes and cashflow.”

Despite political ructions over a proposed devolution deal for West Yorkshire, which would see an elected mayor covering the county’s five local authority areas, including Leeds, the BDO report also revealed that an overwhelming 90% of Yorkshire businesses think the Government will make progress in levelling up the regions in the next three years.

The One Yorkshire devolution deal – agreed in March despite plans for an elected mayor for the city being rejected in a 2012 referendum - was branded by Conservative members as being ‘disappointing’ and ‘democracy-deficient’ at a special meeting of Leeds City Council last month (September).

Terry Jones added: “While Yorkshire companies cope with a myriad of political and socio-economic challenges, as well as business and operational concerns, such as managing supply chains, the wellbeing and safety of employees and the furlough scheme coming to an end, what is encouraging is that nearly a third of businesses still expect to expand their workforce in the next fiscal year, indicating recovery as they rebuild workforces. However, many plan to revise terms for employees. Our poll found that 32% of businesses have already altered their terms of employment for more than 10% of respective staff, including job shares and reduced hours.”