The FSB is kicking off a series of research reports into the effect of Brexit on small firms and the initial findings suggest that there are some key factors of concern for SMEs. Principle among them are exports: As a result of Brexit, one-third (29%) of exporting small firms, regardless of destination, expect their level of exports to decline, while one in five (20%) expect it to increase. The difference is starker for current importers, where one-third (31%) expect to see a decrease compared to seven per cent that expect to see an increase.
“One in three FSB members trades overseas,” Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, said.
“Small business exports have been on the rise since the referendum with the lower value of the pound making UK goods and services more competitive. We know that our members who export are more likely to survive, innovate and grow. As the UK leaves the single market any new agreement must maintain the current ease of trade with the EU and not lead to additional administrative or financial burdens. For a truly global Britain, we need the Government to enhance specific support for small exporters to reach new customers and to negotiate ambitious UK-specific trade deals with large and emerging markets.”
‘Skills are vital for small firms’
In addition, FSB research reveals that one in five (21%) small business employers employ non-UK EU citizens, with the majority of these employees already residing in the UK with the right to work here. In addition, almost half (47%) of small businesses that employ EU citizens predominantly rely on mid-skilled workers, such as mechanics or care workers. Whereas, a fifth (21%) of businesses mainly rely on lower-skilled work such as farm workers and cleaners.
“FSB research clearly shows the importance small businesses place on being able to access the skills and labour they require, particularly mid-skilled workers, who are non-UK EU citizens recruited here in the UK,” Cherry said.
“Mid-level skills are vital for small firms, and businesses call for the right to remain for those EU citizens in the workforce here. The design of any future immigration system must ensure demand can be met, twinned with a supply-side focus on improving UK education and skills. Equally, continuing to attract the very best high-skilled international talent is essential for small businesses operating in sectors such as digital and tech.”