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Written by Sietske De Groot, Senior Policy Advisor (EU & International Policy) for FSB.
As can be seen from the news, this has made for an interesting few weeks. The dust hasn’t yet settled and may not for some time. FSB remained neutral throughout the referendum campaign and fully respects the outcome.
FSB has sought to be a constructive partner for the Government in its forthcoming negotiations. We are engaging with Government to make sure the small business voice is heard as the UK moves to exit the EU. To this end we have written to the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davis MP, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson MP and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox MP, to set out our initial views.
Members have been sharing their views on what they think should happen next. Some are considering buying in bulk from the continent as they fear tariffs will hit them in the future. But that could be a catch 22 as imports have become more expensive with a falling pound against the Euro (not to mention against the dollar). We hear reports that European customers would have less interest in UK companies while others say now is a good time to up efforts to export due to the lower value of the pound.
In some cases, match-funding for European projects has been suspended. Some small financial services providers fear losing their EU bank passport that allows them to offer their services across the EU. However, others are delighted by the future prospect of free trade with countries such as India and are eager to see more Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) signed with the UK.
Great uncertainty remains around future access to the European market. This is not surprising as one third of our members import or export and the vast majority of them trade with European countries. FSB’s main priority is to keep the European market easily accessible for small firms at the lowest cost for business.
To this end we have set out our four key areas:
1) Simple and free access to the European market
2) Simple and free access to overseas labour and skills as needed
3) The future of schemes formally dependent on EU funding
4) Clarity on the future regulatory framework small firms will have to work within
FSB will rally its resources to distil our understanding of the areas above and help shape Government priorities as they start their negotiations.
It is vital that any negotiation also involves the devolved nations and London. Different areas and regions will have specific issues which are important to them, so it will be critical that we consider all views and opinions to accurately reflect the views of members. Therefore, the views and experiences of members will be actively sought in all four areas.
The work will be led by FSB new ‘Brexit’ Chair Neil Warwick and International Affairs Chair Ken Moon. The result will be deployed for engagement with the Government on the negotiations to exit the EU, and for use in the regions, devolved nations and London.
As we scope out the projects in more detail we will be better positioned to share more information. In the meantime, we are open to hear members’ concerns about Brexit.
FSB Members can contact the policy team via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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National Federation of Self Employed & Small Businesses LimitedSir Frank Whittle Way / Blackpool / FY4 2FE. National Federation of Self Employed & Small Businesses Limited (FSB) is registered in England, number 1263540