The owners of more than 220 Yorkshire based small businesses, often considered the backbone of the UK’s economy, are publicly backing calls for a referendum on Brexit.
They have all written to their MPs as part of the People's Vote Campaign to demand a public vote on Brexit.
Originally from Pakstan, Suliaman Aslam worked as a bus driver before opening his own store - Quids-In - selling household goods, a year ago in Goldthorpe, near Barnsley.
Suliaman said: “I want a People’s Vote because I think we are all human and can make mistakes. During the first vote most people had no idea of the outcomes. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about: we can correct our mistake and make a change for the better for all of us.”
Paula Widdowson founded a sustainability consultancy called CSR-i Ltd based in York nine years ago.
She said: “Brexit impacts in both big and small ways. Business thrives on certainty, so all this uncertainty means no one can make plans, which is damaging.
“The number of people I know who voted ‘leave’ – including my parents - who now say they were ‘tricked or conned’ is phenomenal. I can only liken it to buying a house: it looks fantastic so you make an offer, then when the surveyor’s report reveals it’s built on a fault line, do you still continue with the purchase?
“I know people who have changed their mind based on the deal on offer. The deal we have with the EU is better. Surely we all deserve a chance to measure our views against clear information?”
Michael Cardis is the proprietor Carolina Blinds & Curtains, which has been operating in Leeds for over 20 years.
He said: “Most of my products are imported and that level of uncertainly in trade isn’t helpful. If there is a downturn in the economy of course it will definitely impact the business. There needs to be a People’s Vote because I think what will happen if we leave Europe is an absolute disaster. Even the first time round I thought asking this question in a Referendum would have disastrous results."
They are among thousands of small business owners from across the UK who have written to their MPs to demand they back a People’s Vote.
An increasing number of business leaders and companies have expressed concern that any form of Brexit will harm the economy and put jobs at risk.
The aerospace firm Airbus, which employs thousands of people across the UK, has called the government’s handling of Brexit a “disgrace” and said it could quit the UK If we leave the EU.
Sony recently announced it is moving its European headquarters from Britain to the Netherlands to avoid Brexit-related customs issues.
There are growing fears that more companies could decide to leave the UK, if Brexit goes ahead. A recent survey by the Institute of Directors suggested that one in three British businesses could be forced to shift operations abroad, due to Brexit.
But many small and family run firms operate on tight margins and do not have the option of moving their business abroad.
Kim Kendrick has a personal training and therapy business, Move 4 Fitness, based in York. She started her business in 2009 when she lived in Munich, Germany.
She said: “I moved to Germany when I worked in software development and whilst there launched a career in fitness. Freedom of movement meant I travelled and worked, independently, in another European country. I know many British people like myself who have benefitted from this opportunity.
“Due to the rule that people who have not been resident in the UK for 15 years not being allowed to vote in referendums, many of this group could not vote in 2016. Despite the result having a direct impact on their lives, they were disenfranchised. Considering how small the margin between ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ was, they are understandably disgruntled at having no voice and many feel that this was not a clear enough majority to make such a monumental change.
“We need a People’s Vote because the fellow Brits I know living in Europe wish to continue being able to come and go. Where is the fairness in a set of rules that doesn’t give a voice to the thousands who are just away for a few years, and might intend to return in due course?”
Keith West is the Founder and Director of PEMCO Ltd, which started in 2010 and now has 10 employees. Based in Harrogate, PEMCO is a risk management consultancy that produces digital training for large clients both nationally and internationally.
He said: “I recently spent time in Amsterdam and Malaga with a view to establishing business in these places. Unfortunately, I found that already the perception from many Europeans of UK-based businesses is that we are insular and not international in our reach. This is a great cause of concern for me, and should be for all UK-based businesses.
“When I voted in 2016, I voted for a positive and prosperous future. I didn’t vote for the turmoil and business uncertainty that we are now facing. Nor did I know back then so much about the role of the EU, and how important and intrinsic it is to the UK economy.
"For these reasons I believe that we should now have a People’s Vote, even if only to confirm that the democratic voice of the people has not changed. I suspect that many people may have changed their mind over the past two years.”