THE head of a law firm which advises many entrepreneurs from Eastern Europe says they account for a “significant percentage” of business start-ups.
Steve Simpkins says despite the uncertainty over Brexit, he believes there will continue to be a significant local population from Poland and other former Eastern Bloc countries.
Mr Simpkins is principal solicitor with Simpkins & Co, based in Highcliffe and London, which has a department to advise Polish speakers.
He said many business people from mainland Europe were biding their time until it is known whether EU nationals in the UK will be allowed to stay and vice versa.
“The impression I’m getting is people are still waiting to see what transpires,” said Mr Simpkins.
“I think it’s a bit of a negotiating chip, which is unfortunate because it affects people’s lives.
“From the government point of view, I understand why they’ve taken the stand they have. If they were to make a policy decision and announce it, then that could prove to be difficult in terms of negotiating with other EU members.”
He added: “There’s a significant Polish and Central Eastern European community here and I’d be surprised if that isn’t the case moving forward for some time.”
Mr Simpkins’ practice has nine staff working in civil litigation, business advice and private client work.
“About four or five years ago through contacts and friends, I befriended quite a few Polish individuals and it struck me, having spoken to them and assisted them with a number of legal matters, there was a gap in the market,” he said.
He set up a department headed by Polish-speaking solicitor Agnieszka Bania, assisted by Bartosz Maj. They became involved in Polish Business Link, based primarily in London, and Polish Business Hub, which hosts presentations and networking events at theSky Bar of Bournemouth’s Hilton and the Hermitage Hotel.
Mr Simpkins said Polish speakers were behind a wide variety of businesses including IT, search engine optimisation, web development, biotech engineering, accountancy, construction, speciality food and graphics. He said there was a strong entrepreneurial culture among people from the east of Europe.
“They account for a significant percentage of new business start-ups,” he said.
“Where a lot of these people have come from, the shackles were on. We’ve become somewhat aware of what the regulations are, the regime out there in terms of business, and it’s very difficult. They’re highly taxed from the outset, it’s very bureaucratic, there’s still a big of a hangover from the old days of communist rule.
“They come over here and the shackles are off.
“There’s so much more freedom and encouragement to be an entrepreneur which I don’t think is necessarily the case back in their homeland.”