Small business confidence has fallen to its lowest point since 2011, amid continued uncertainty surrounding Brexit negotiations.
According to a survey by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), SME confidence fell to -9.9 in the last three months of 2018.
This response was made ahead of an anticipated parliamentary vote on Theresa May's Brexit deal, which was originally scheduled to take place on 11 December 2018.
However, the Prime Minister announced on 10 December that the vote would be delayed in hope of having more time for negotiations with the EU.
Mike Cherry, chairman of the FSB, said:
"We've not seen political uncertainty weighing on small business confidence like this for many years.
"Planning ahead has now become impossible for a lot of firms as we simply don't know what environment we'll be faced with in little more than 100 days' time."
Despite these disruptions, around half of small firms still aspire to grow their business over the next 12 months - around the same figure as last year.
Some 16% of small businesses took on new staff in the past three months, while 68% increased pay compared to last year.
"There is a huge amount of drive and ambition among our small businesses. If they're given certainty and the support they need, their full potential can be realised."
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