New trade deals must be transition priority, say small firms

Mike Cherry of the FSB

Responding to the announcement that terms for the post-Brexit transition period have been agreed, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman Mike Cherry, said:

“Finalising transition period terms will gift some certainty to the UK small business community and protect it from a damaging cliff-edge moment. Wherever possible, small firms want only one set of rule changes that take effect from the end of 2020. It’s good to see an agreement which will largely mean business owners can continue to operate broadly as they do now until 31 December 2020. Today’s announcement will make it that much easier for firms to plan, grow, trade, invest and hire.

“Confirmation that the UK will have the freedom to sign and ratify new trade deals during the transition period marks a critical step forward. The Government must seize the opportunity to establish new agreements with the likes of the US, China and Australia that can be implemented immediately after the transition period ends, whilst also establishing a new deep and comprehensive trading relationship with the EU. Nine in ten exporting small firms have ties to the single market, so it’s vital that we maintain maximum possible access to Europe post-Brexit.

“New trade deals struck during the transition period must contain dedicated small business chapters. Expanding our horizons shouldn’t only be to the benefit of big multi-national corporations.

“One in five small business employers has EU staff on their books. Often, these EU citizens are bringing skills that are hard to find elsewhere. That’s why it’s so important that small firms have access to the European talent they need beyond Brexit day, and EU workers arriving during the transition period have their rights protected.

“The offer of permanent residency to EU citizens arriving during the transition period is good to see. Equally, small business owners and the self-employed will welcome the freedom to freely cross European borders after 2019. Losing that freedom can mean losing out to European competitors.

“EU workers who are currently at the heart of thousands of small UK firms shouldn’t be lumbered with reams of paperwork to secure the right to remain during the transition period. The proposed new settled status scheme needs to be as streamlined as possible and not place excessive burdens on small business owners or their teams.

“It’s encouraging to see so much of the withdrawal agreement green lit. We look forward to seeing some more certainty around the shape of final Brexit terms, including proposals for avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.”