A leading business group is demanding that the UK government give vouchers to the small firms in Britain to pay for advice, training and other support as they make preparations for Brexit.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) notes that the idea has been adopted in Ireland and the Netherlands. It said that it would ensure that more firms were ready for the significant upheaval that could follow the departure of the United Kingdom from the bloc.
In a speech on the day that the United Kingdom was originally scheduled to depart, the chair of the FSB said that small firms had been given little support in more than “1,000 days of uncertainty” since the 2016 referendum. The United Kingdom was scheduled to officially leave the bloc on the 29th of March until Britain requested a last-minute delay earlier this month.
The FSB also warned about the new figures from a survey of over 1,000 members, suggesting the companies were delaying recruitment plans, scaling back export expansion, and stopping investment due to the ongoing Brexit uncertainty.
The figures from the first quarter of 2019 reveal a record-high number of companies reporting declining revenue, and nine out of ten are not planning to raise their staff numbers.
The survey also discovered that the hopes of expansion of export firms in the next three months had plunged to their lowest point in the nine years since the FSB began collecting the figures.
The headline index of the FSB that analyse business confidence has plunged from a positive balance of +6 a year ago to -6 today, dropping for the third quarter in a row. It is the first time that the FSB has ever recorded three successive quarters of heightening pessimism.
The national chair of the FSB, Mike Cherry, stated: “Small firms were told that we would be leaving the EU today with a good understanding beforehand of what the future would hold.”
He added: “While many politicians have prioritised machinations, the smaller businesses that make-up 99% of our economy have been left in the dark.”
He noted: “Thousands have had to shell-out for scenario planning. The least the government can do now is follow the example set by Ireland and the Netherlands by providing small firms with vouchers to access the advice, equipment and upskilling they need to future-proof their businesses as trade arrangements change.”
Cherry also advised of making low-interest loans available to small companies to cover costs.
He said that businesses were already worried about April for reasons other than Brexit, with a “triple whammy” of higher business rates, higher pension contributions, and new obligations on digital tax records.
The FSB chair is most recent to join a line of business leaders queuing up to criticise politicians over their handling of Brexit.
Yesterday, the director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), Dr Adam Marshall, appealed with the MPs to stop “chasing rainbows” following a series of rival Brexit plans were voted down in parliament last night.
In a speech during the annual conference of the organisation in London, he slammed the politicians for spending “three years going round in circles.”