The number of small and medium businesses feeling pessimistic over their outlook outnumbered that of firms positive about their prospects for the first time in four years, a survey released on Thursday (22 September) showed. According to data released by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), in its first survey since Britain's referendum on the European Union, confidence among small and medium businesses (SMEs) suffered the second-sharpest decline in the index's history.

Business confidence recorded its third consecutive quarterly decline and dropped into negative territory for the first time in four years.

"The political shock of the Brexit result has taken place at a time of weakening business confidence," said FSB national chairman Mike Cherry.

The 1,035 companies surveyed also warned that economic uncertainty was likely to drag on amid the political uncertainty surrounding the Brexit negotiations.

However, the FSB added small businesses had shown signs of resilience in spite of a relatively fragile economy, with the percentage of small companies aiming to grow over the next 12 months standing at 55%, the highest level since the end of last year.

Meanwhile, the number of companies that expect to close or scale down their operations fell to 11%.

"Small firms are resilient and will survive the current fragile economic outlook, but to avoid an economic slowdown this data should be a wake-up call for our elected politicians," Cherry added.

"We look to the party conferences and upcoming Autumn Statement to green-light infrastructure projects at local and national level, to simplify the tax system and to help reduce the costs of doing business."