Latest research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) shows that confidence among UK small firms has fallen to its lowest point since 2011.

Its ‘Small Business Index’ – a quarterly barometer of small business opinion, reflects a level of pessimism not seen since the aftermath of the financial crash.

More than four in ten (43 per cent) small businesses expect their performance to worsen over the coming three months, which is up from 30 per cent in the summer.

The proportion of small exporters expecting international sales to fall next quarter has soared to a four-year high, surpassing 30 per cent and up 14 percentage points compared with Q4 2017.

The number of small firms citing lack of access to appropriately skilled staff as a barrier to growth has also risen to more than a third (36 per cent). This is the highest share since the beginning of 2015.

Worryingly, two-thirds (67 per cent) of small firms do not expect to increase capital investment in the coming three months, while one in seven (15 per cent) are planning to actively decrease investment.

No doubt these figures are being driven by the unprecedented political uncertainty currently facing the UK. It means that planning ahead has become impossible for many small firms as they simply don’t know what environment they will face in little more than 100 days’ time.

Small businesses need a pro-business Brexit so that they can continue to trade easily with the EU and have access to the skills they need. Politicians need to take account of the UK small business community’s mounting concerns. The economic warning signs are now flashing red.

All is certainly not lost. There is a huge amount of resilience, drive and ambition among our small businesses. If they’re given certainty and the support they need, their full potential can still be realised.