BY Itrat Bashir

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has urged the government to ensure economic stability at this time of uncertainty and reassure small businesses of access to the single market in the European Union (EU).

FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry attended Business Secretary Sajid Javid’s business summit and stressed the need for immediate action to reassure small businesses so they can continue to trade and do business.

“Smaller firms need simple access to the single market, the ability to hire the right people, continued EU funding for key schemes and clarity on the future regulatory framework. When the negotiations start, FSB will to be a constructive partner and strong voice for small businesses, pushing for swift clarity on these crucial points,” he added.

According to him, as soon as the EU Referendum results were clear, FSB called on the government and the Bank of England to provide economic stability, for small firms to get the confidence to continue to drive economic growth and create jobs.

According to FSB, one-third of its members are in both export and import businesses, with the vast majority doing so with other countries within the single market. Access to the single market means access to 500 million potential consumers, more than 26 million businesses and is worth more than £9 trillion. The UK decision to leave the EU will impact smaller firms who directly import, and export, but who are also part of a supply chain. FSB is calling on the government for assurances that smaller firms can maintain access to the single market, and for steps to protect inward investment.

“Smaller firms employ 15.6 million people, which make up 60 percent of all private sector employment in the UK. Access to the right skills is a crucial requirement of smaller firms to ensure they can meet consumer demands and grow as a business. Over 30 percent of FSB members are worried they do not have access to the right skills. Smaller firms need to be able to hire the right person for the job, and sometimes this means recruiting from overseas. While we must focus hard to up-skill our UK workforce, including both academic and vocational skills, access to skilled labour from the EU must remain in place in the medium-term. In addition, many UK small firms, the self-employed, consultants and freelancers want the right to work in the EU as they do now,” observed FSB.

It also observed that directly and indirectly, many small businesses have benefitted from EU funds, some channelled toward infrastructure and others toward local initiatives. FSB members want reassurance that all schemes remain fully-funded in the short-term and a full assessment of the future of EU-funded schemes takes place.

The Government’s deregulation drive has seen some success, but they now call for a stronger role for the Regulatory Policy Committee in terms of tax regulations and rules coming from the EU. “The government should now be setting out their approach to boost this drive to remove red tape. UK/EU law has been developed over the last 40 years and now needs to be disentangled, and Government must provide clarity over what new regulation may be required,” it added.
FSB members in Northern Ireland are seeking assurances that they will not see the reinstatement of border controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic, nor when travelling to the rest of the UK.