Gov announces £20m SME Brexit fund

The government has pledged a £20 million SME Brexit Support Fund to help small businesses adapt to new customs, rules of origin, and VAT rules when trading with the EU.

SMEs who trade only with the EU will be able to apply for a grant of up to £2000 to pay for “practical support” on new import and export rules, including training and professional advice.

The fund is designed to help businesses prepare for the implementation of import controls which come into force from April and July.

The government said that having “taken back control” of UK borders, it made the decision to introduce new import controls in three stages up to 1 July 2021, to allow traders an hauliers time to adjust.

It said that this means businesses do not have to complete new import declarations for up to six months, unless they are moving controlled goods.

“The Government has listened carefully to the issues raised by the business community through the Brexit Business Taskforce and that’s why we are bringing forward this financial support to help small businesses adapt to the changes to our trading relationship with the EU,” said Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove. “This new targeted funding will see small businesses get more of the practical support they need to adjust to the new processes and prepare for further changes as we implement our own import controls in April and July.”

Mike Cherry, national chair at the Federation of Small Businesses, said:
“Today’s announcement is very significant. Small businesses, often with few cash reserves, are for the first time facing complex new customs processes, VAT requirements and rules of origin. While many have come to FSB for help, we have been asking for proper financial assistance of this scale, so that a cash-strapped small business can afford to buy-in expertise, training and practical support. The new fund will make a significant difference, and we are pleased that Ministers have really engaged with us on this, and come up with an excellent response.”

Allie Rennison, head of trade policy at the Institute of Directors said: “This support package delivers on the IoD’s longstanding campaign to help SMEs access the professional advice needed in managing a suite of changes arising from Brexit.

“Smaller firms simply cannot manage many of the processes themselves and require experts across a range of areas to assist with trade continuity, and we commend this government for responding to our call.”

The government also announced that Logistics UK, formerly the Freight Transport Association (FTA), will be joining the Brexit Business Taskforce.

“Logistics UK welcomes the additional support that is being put in place to help SMEs make sure they can adapt and succeed in the new trading environment,” said David Well, chief executive, Logistics UK. “These issues directly impact the operations and livelihoods of our members who carry their produce into the EU and have to be confident that the correct paperwork is in place.

He added: “I’m delighted that the government has recognised the importance of Logistics to our economy, and the critical role it plays in our future trading relationships with the EU, by inviting Logistics UK to represent the sector on the Brexit Business Taskforce, alongside the other major business groups in the UK. Logistics UK has been at the forefront of helping government to keep
Britain trading and I look forward to continuing our challenging and constructive dialogue focused on securing the best possible outcome for the whole sector and the economy.”

The government said that in the past week there have been overall freight flows between the UK and the EU of 98 per cent compared to the same time last year.

It was reported last week that more than a third of consumers in the UK have stopped purchasing goods from the EU post-Brexit.

Earlier this week sports-fashion retailer JD Sports announced plans to open an EU distribution centre to address new Brexit redtape and fees.

Peter Cowgill, chairman of JD Sports, told the BBC that red tape and delays to international shipping meant “double-digit millions” in additional costs.

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