Small businesses want the Government to hurry up and agree the future economic partnership with the EU, new FSB research shows – but they’re concerned about trade deals outside the EU and a lack of labour, too.
Post-Brexit trade hopes
The research from the Federation of Small Businesses revealed that for small firms, the EU single market is a priority trading bloc; 63% of small firms want to see a trade deal prioritised with the EU post-Brexit.
However, the non-EU country that most small businesses are looking to for trade with post-Brexit is the US, with 49% saying it’s the most important country to get a trade deal with. 29% also wanted to see a trade deal with Australia and 28% felt a trade deal with China was important.
Mike Cherry, national chairman of the FSB, welcomed the agreement on the terms of a transition period and the certainty it brings, but said attention “should now turn swiftly” toward creating the new trade agreements and immigration policies that will come into place after the implementation period.
Call for dedicated help for small exporters
The FSB is calling on Government to include a dedicated small business chapter recognising the bespoke support small firms will need to realise their exporting and wider trade ambitions.
The Federation also wants to see the Department for International Trade’s Global Growth Programme must be rolled out to small and micro businesses, as well as mid-sized businesses to allow these firms to access financial support to assist them with for example translation or intermediary costs.
“Small firms trade with countries based on ease, cost and value. It is vital that any future trade deal, irrespective of whether with the EU or non-EU markets, must deliver these key priorities,” said Mike Cherry.
“Tailored trade support, like financial incentives to support costs attached to international trade including small business trade missions, whether in their own right or as part of supply chains, will empower many to reach out and connect with new markets.”
Skilled labour vital to small businesses
The FSB say their research shows that skilled labour is just as important as trade to the success of UK small businesses. 21% of small employers currently have EU staff and 59% of small businesses are concerned about accessing the skills they need post-Brexit.
The FSB is calling for the new immigration system to be:
- Employer-driven – to ensure that businesses can meet their skills and labour needs and allow easy transfer of EU workers between UK employers
- Simpler than the current non-EEA, UK points-based immigration system that 95% of small businesses have no experience of using
- Suitable for use by the self-employed and small business owners looking to come and set up in the UK, as well as those in the UK looking to carry out assignment and contracts in the EU
Mike Cherry said that in the midst of the UK’s productivity challenge and growing skills shortage, access to the employees they need is critical for small business success.
“Without easy and cost-effective access to EU workers, firms will be faced with medium term chronic, unresolvable skills gaps, particularly in the mid skilled area. This will impact growth and even the survival of many small businesses.
“The Home Office must work hard to deliver an immigration system that that is affordable and easy to navigate. Small businesses should not be put off hiring the right talent or losing staff because the new processes take too long, add too much paperwork or has become too expensive.”
Does your small business trade internationally? What are your fears and hopes about future trade in and outside the EU and the availability of skilled workers? Share your opinions with us.