The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has published its initial findings from a six-month research programme on the business impact of leaving the EU. The report found that access to the EU single market and the ability to recruit workers with the right skills are the main concerns of UK small businesses.
Currently, 32% of small businesses are involved in overseas trade as an exporter and/or importer, with the vast majority trading with the single market (92% of exporting small firms and 85% of importing small firms).
According to the report, 29% of exporting small firms, regardless of destination, expect their level of exports to decline as a result of Brexit, although 20% expect it to increase.
The difference is more marked for current importers: 31% expect to see a decrease, compared to 7% that expect to see an increase.
On the issue of recruitment, the FSB research found that 21% of small businesses employ non-UK EU citizens, with the majority of these employees already living in the UK with the right to work here. Additionally, some 47% of small businesses that employ EU citizens mainly rely on mid-skilled workers, while 21% of businesses primarily use lower-skilled workers.
Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the FSB, said: ‘Evidence from our members . . . shows the need for ministers to safeguard and promote an easy trading landscape, and to make sure small businesses have access to the right talent at the right time.
‘We also see future opportunities to revamp future funding for business support and access to finance, and for a lighter-touch regulatory system that promotes growth and productivity.’
Over the next few months the FSB will be releasing a series of in-depth reports on what small businesses want from Brexit, focusing separately on markets and trade, skills and labour, EU funding and business support, and the future of regulation.