Six in ten small businesses have said the domestic economy continues to be a barrier for growth in the face of “political uncertainty” – according to a leading indicator.

Small UK firms raised concerns about “weak economic growth, consumer demand and high lending rates” in the latest Federation of Small Businesses Small Business Index, published this week.

FSB area leader for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire, Pam Charman said the prospect of a “chaotic” no-deal Brexit made it “impossible” for firms in the area to plan, hire and invest.

The SBI suggests UK small business confidence has fallen to -9.9 - the lowest since the 2011 financial crash.

The FSB said two thirds of small firms do not expect their performance to improve this quarter.

Ms Charman said: ““Two-and-half-years on from the Brexit vote small businesses are looking ahead to leave day with no idea of what environment they’ll be faced with.

“Current uncertainty is making it impossible for firms in the area to plan, hire and invest.

“Come the beginning of April small firms will not only have Brexit to worry about, but also Making Tax Digital, a higher living wage, rising auto-enrolment contributions and further business rate hikes.

“In our area, there is a particular problem with lack of land for commercial and industrial use as it is all being swallowed up for housing development. This will be a flashpoint for a lot of businesses, threatening the futures of many.”

The new SBI also shows borrowing costs for small firms soaring. The proportion of successful credit applicants being offered a borrowing rate of 5 per cent or more has also hit a record high.