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FSB calls for export vouchers for small firms

8 October 2019

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is asking the government to do more to support struggling small firms by giving them export vouchers.

The FSB is calling on the Department for International Trade and the Treasury to give small firms a pre-Brexit injection of support to promote exporting by introducing export vouchers. According to FSB data, 21% of small firms currently export and 40% of those say that uncertainty over Brexit is having a negative impact on their exporting ambitions.

These vouchers, up to the value of £3,000, would help small firms with a range of costs, such as investments in translation services, market research and finding new clients through overseas trade fairs. The support, says the FSB, would help the economy as a whole as well as individual businesses.

FSB research has found that the positive impact of the depreciation in Sterling on exporters has been offset by the volatility in Sterling and the uncertainty created as a result of the current failure to secure a Brexit deal.

Over half (53%) of smaller business exporters to the EU believe their business continuity and growth will be negatively impacted by a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.

Of those smaller businesses that export that have prepared for a no-deal scenario, the average cost of preparations is £2,880, rising to around £3,000 for those smaller businesses that import and/or export.

"It's time that the government stepped in and gave small firms the help that they need in order to realise their exporting ambitions," said Mike Cherry, FSB national chairman. "The introduction of export vouchers up to the value of £3,000 will alleviate some of the strains that exporting firms are facing at the current time.

"Around 21% of small firms currently export, but with additional assistance from the government, FSB believes that those numbers could double … These financial incentives are a great way to support our small firms that want to begin their exporting journey as well as those looking for ways to increase their exporting potential.

"Close to half (46%) of smaller businesses that think they will be negatively impacted by a no-deal scenario would welcome some form of financial assistance in the form of either Brexit vouchers or tax credits/breaks."

Also this week, the UK's temporary tariff regime in the event of no-deal has been updated. However, Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said: "The latest temporary tariff regime only contains three changes, so businesses will be frustrated that it took government so long to publish the updates - needlessly extending uncertainty around the entire future tariff schedule."

He added: "The government must also publish a Market Access Database comparable to the one British traders can currently use as part of the EU. This would bring together in one place the information on tariffs and quotas that traders need. We're been assured it's under development, but its delivery by Brexit day is critical for businesses to plan ahead."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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