FAMILY business owners are taking cash out of their companies to protect themselves from Brexit fall-out.

With the UK hurtling towards March 29 and no sign of a withdrawal agreement being ratified by Parliament, a senior adviser to private businesses in Scotland has revealed family firms are moving to take “cash off the table”.

Susie Simpson, who leads the private business practice of PwC in Scotland, said the trend is one of a number of ways company owners are attempting to prepare for Brexit in the absence of concrete details on the terms of the UK’s departure from the European Union.

Ms Simpson, who has been a partner at the accountancy giant since 2014, said: “There are instances where acquisitions have been put on hold. I have also seen a lot more discussions with owners of businesses, just in the last six months, [who are] extracting cash from their businesses.

“These businesses are doing really well, and they are beginning to say: “I want to take some of that excess cash off the table” rather than investing it through the business, just protecting themselves and their families.”

The comments from Ms Simpson chime with the most recent official figures on the performance of the UK economy, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) last week. The ONS reported that economic growth slowed to just 0.2 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2018, with business investment tumbling by 1.4% quarter-on-quarter as Brexit uncertainty weighs heavily on activity.

Amid the cloudy outlook, Ms Simpson said the owners of some family firms are now weighing up whether it is the right time to exit and “accelerate retirement plans”.

And there are by-products of the Brexit process which are influencing the thoughts of private businesses owners around the UK.

Ms Simpson, who joined PwC from Dickson Minto in Edinburgh in 2006, said the prospect of a general election and a potential change of political leadership in the UK as another variable which is making business planning difficult in the current climate. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is continuing to make the case for an election to ease the Brexit deadlock while Theresa May continues to struggle to win support for her proposed withdrawal agreement

Ms Simpson said: “If you go into a general election, what will a new government do in terms of tax rates? It’s that not being able to plan [that affects business]. When they know what it is, they will plan for it, but at the minute they don’t even know which government it is going to be, because of the uncertainty around Brexit.”

In spite of the uncertainty, Ms Simpson said a “trenches mentality” is evident among clients. And she backed private firms to navigate whatever Brexit throws up, emphasising the advantage they have of being “fleet of foot” and “able to change direction quite quickly without having to go to a whole plc board”.

Moreover, some firms she advises are already “going like a fair” because of Brexit stockpiling. These include a steel contractor “which cannot put up warehousing fast enough”.

Ms Simpson said: “It shows there are real opportunities for firms able to react quickly.”