Time to deliver on Brexit transition period, say UKs small firms

Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman Mike Cherry has responded to Theresa May’s speech on the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

Responding to the speech made at the Mansion House Cherry said: “We welcome hearing the Prime Minister say the Government is doing what it can to encourage more small businesses to export not just to the EU but also around the world. To make Brexit a success small businesses must be at the heart of negotiations on the future economic partnership.

“We also welcomed her commitment to ensuring trade is low cost and “as frictionless as possible and with no hard border” in Ireland. Both the UK and the EU must have the shared goal of reaching an agreement which allows small businesses both in the UK and the EU 27 to flourish. That is why we are calling for both sides to take a pragmatic approach. All small business eyes will be on the forthcoming EU Council meeting to provide the certainty that small businesses urgently need.

“The Prime Minister set out five pillars that guide her in the negotiations. In response, there are five key questions small businesses need answered.

“The most pressing question is when will an agreement on the terms of the transition period be reached? This is vital to allow trade, access to labour and skills to continue on current terms while new trade arrangements are finalised.

“Secondly, with the Government’s call to boost free trade, will small businesses maintain as frictionless trade as possible with the EU27, whilst also benefiting from reaching out to new global growth markets? We cannot have a situation where small businesses are weighed down by additional burdensome paperwork, queues and costs.

“Third, will small businesses be able to have easy and cost effective access to the skills and talent they need to grow and innovate?

“Fourth, will small businesses and the self-employed be able to easily travel across all the EU 27 member states to win new contracts and do their day-to-day work?

“Finally, when powers are returned from Europe, will Government prioritise the needs of small businesses across all nations of the UK and remove unnecessary barriers to growth?

Small businesses, as a group, now find themselves at the centre of the Brexit debate. Theresa May ended her speech by saying “let’s get on with it” – that’s a sentiment shared by small businesses as there is now an urgency for all sides to find the solutions that empower and strengthen the small business community and the many people they employ.”

Adding to what the FSB said Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “Businesses will appreciate the Prime Minister’s ambition and her determination to secure a wide-ranging agreement in the next phase of negotiations with the EU. Theresa May’s commitment to supporting the interests of business and enterprise will reassure firms that their needs will be front and centre in the negotiations ahead.

“Businesses will still have to wait for some of the detail they need to plan ahead with confidence, but the Prime Minister was clearer and more realistic than ever before on the political choices and economic trade-offs ahead.

“The practical issues that matter for business and trade must now become the absolute priority. The time for high-level statements is over, and attention must now turn to the painstaking process of getting the details right.

“Over the next fortnight, it is imperative for both sides to come to a swift agreement on transitional arrangements, to give businesses further certainty over short-term trading conditions, and to move swiftly on to detailed and constructive discussions about the future UK-EU relationship. Businesses on both sides of the Channel will be dismayed if the parties opt for high-volume megaphone blasts over pragmatic and practical concerns.”