Federation of small businesses says tech vouchers needed to survive Brexit transition

SMBs need financial support to help them with expertise, new technology, and training, group argues

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called for the UK Government to provide transition vouchers for firms ahead of the country's latest round of talks with the European Union.

The organisation, which provides small businesses with services, support and a voice to government, says the current financial landscape is in a notably different state to where it was at the beginning of the Brexit negotiations.

"The transition period will soon be at an end but the small firms that make up 99% of our business community still have no clear sense of what they'll be transitioning to," said FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry in a release.

"The economy is in a very different place today compared to the last time we were told to prepare for a no-deal outcome. Small firms don't have the time or money to get across new bureaucracy or stockpile."

As a result of this uncertainty, FSB is urging the UK to construct and agree on a deal that will benefit small businesses and outline just what those positives are.

"Negotiators need to agree a small business-friendly deal, and swiftly," Cherry continued. "Concerningly -- unlike all other major UK Free Trade Agreements – the draft terms of the EU deal don't contain a dedicated small business chapter outlining how it will benefit firms of all sizes. We urgently need progress on this front."

The ongoing impact of the COVID-19 outbreak has also complicated the situation, leaving small businesses little option but to plough all their efforts into navigating the pandemic as a priority.

The flexibility of transition vouchers would, however, allow businesses a softer transition into their new relationship with the EU, FSB said.

"Given that small firms have been flat out managing coronavirus-linked disruption for the past six months, the Government needs to step in with the substantial financial support to assist with transition preparations," Cherry urged.

"Transition vouchers mark a sensible way forward: set sums that can be spent on expertise, tech and training that will ease the small business community's move to a new relationship with the EU."

He added: "If the Government wants firms to take preparatory action over the next few months, it needs to help them to do so. Business minds are understandably, still very much focussed on coronavirus."

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