Almost 5,000 Merton businesses have closed in past three years, as Brexit hits the high street

Almost 5,000 Merton businesses have closed in past three years.

Figures released by the Liberal Democrats today on Small Business Saturday (Saturday 7 December) have revealed that 4,715 Merton businesses closed over the last three years, in the clearest sign yet of a Brexit hit to local high streets.

The rate of business closures in the borough has spiked since the 2016 EU referendum, with 29% more closures in the three years between 2016 and 2018 than in the preceding three years.

Across the UK one million businesses have closed their doors between 2016 and 2018, an increase of almost a third compared to 2013-2015.

The Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Wimbledon, Paul Kohler, has blasted the Conservatives for their failure to protect local businesses. “These figures are a damning indictment of the Conservative Party’s attitude towards local businesses”, said Paul Kohler.

“Their obsession with forcing through a hard Brexit is damaging Wimbledon’s high streets.

“As the owner of an bar myself I have personally felt the pressure that the Conservatives’ policy has placed on independent businesses.

“Now Boris Johnson wants to plunge small businesses into even more uncertainty and worry by pursuing a Brexit plan that risks yet another No Deal cliff edge in December 2020 – a plan that the Conservative candidate in Wimbledon has said he will vote for.

“If Boris Johnson gets his way even more Wimbledon businesses could be forced to shut their doors in the coming months. The Conservatives have lost any right to call themselves the party of business.

“If I am elected on 12 December I will work hard to rescue our high streets and boost local businesses by stopping Brexit, scrapping outdated business rates and introducing more support for entrepreneurs.”

The new figures come as the Liberal Democrats today (Saturday 7 December) unveil a series of measures to reverse this decline and boost local firms, to mark Small Business Saturday.

Liberal Democrats have said that they will Stop Brexit and invest the £50 billion Remain Bonus in improving public services and tackling inequality. The party would also put in place a package of measures to support small businesses and boost high streets in Merton, including:

  • Creating a new ‘start-up allowance’ to support those starting new businesses with their living costs in the crucial first weeks of the business.
  • Increasing mentoring support to small business owners.
  • Requiring government agencies and larger firms to sign up to a new, enforceable, prompt payment code to ensure that small businesses never again suffer because of large businesses failing to pay on time.
  • Expanding the Future High Streets Fund to support the redevelopment of more town centres and high streets.
  • Supporting the development of the skills small businesses need by reforming the apprenticeship levy to become a skills and training levy where 25% of being targeted at areas with the greatest skills needs.



Analysis by the Liberal Democrats on the number of businesses closing including in each region and local authority, is available here. The figures on businesses closing are taken from the ONS Business Demography 2018 (published 19 November 2019). 

Two-fifths of SMEs surveyed by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) believe a No Deal Brexit would damage their firm (Federation of Small Businesses).

The Conservative government is introducing IR35, which will change the way self employed contractors are dealt with in the tax system from April 2020. The Association of Independent Professionals and Self Employed has called the move “disastrous”.

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