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How U.K. Businesses Are Coming to Terms With Brexit, Deal or No Deal

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02.04.2019

When David Strang joined the Supper Club, a London-based networking group comprising some 450 founders, he relished the idea of being able to air his frustrations and fears, as well as trade ideas and best practices, with fellow entrepreneurs. These days, all anyone can talk about is Brexit.

"All we can do is sit tight and wait for the chaos to ensue," says Strang, the founder of Wicked Vision, a London-based maker of boomerangs and other toys. Should the U.K. leave the European Union without a plan for streamlining import and export tariffs and customs duties with its neighbors--that is, a "no-deal Brexit"--he fears the outcome could be "disastrous" for his business. Currently, he says, European buyers account for about 20 percent of his company's total sales, which he declined to disclose.

Strang is just one of many U.K. entrepreneurs grappling with how to operate--much less grow--in a time of extreme uncertainty. According to the latest survey from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, a membership organization for accountants and finance professionals, business confidence for the first quarter of 2019 hit negative 16.4 percent--the lowest level in almost a decade.

It isn't helpful that policymakers can't seem to agree on a withdrawal plan. The latest deal gives the U.K. until April 12 to agree on an exit plan negotiated between lawmakers and their counterparts in Brussels. The nation had been hurtling toward a deadline of March 29 without a deal for how to exit the E.U.'s single market, which allows the free movement of goods, capital, services, and labor among member countries.

Despite the momentary reprieve, entrepreneurs are busy making contingency plans--hoping to avoid erasing many of the gains they've made in the past few years. From ramping up sales to non-E.U. countries and inking new vendor relationships outside the trading bloc to relocating entirely,........

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