Small firms say EU trading a priority after Brexit

Almost two-thirds of small firms see the EU market as a priority. Picture: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images
Almost two-thirds of small firms see the EU market as a priority. Picture: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images
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Unimpeded access to EU markets is vital for Britain’s smaller firms in Brexit negotiations, and one in four would be deterred from exporting there if even a very small tariff was introduced, suggests a report today.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) says almost two-thirds of its UK members (63 per cent) regard the EU market as a priority.

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The new research also found more than half (58 per cent) of smaller firms find the single market easier to trade with than non-EU markets, with only six per cent saying the opposite.

Andy Willox, the FSB’s Scottish policy convenor, said: “The UK and Scottish economies cannot afford to see a slowdown in exports.

“FSB is calling on the UK government to secure the easiest, and least costly, access to the EU single market in the Brexit negotiations.

“Lots of first-time exporters regard EU markets as a training ground and a lower-risk first step to realising their global ambitions.

“In addition, we cannot underestimate the importance of an arrangement which works for firms which import. Speciality shops and manufacturers need access to global suppliers so they can in turn serve their customers. Many of these firms often in turn serve UK firms which export.”

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About a sixth of Scottish FSB members, which number 17,000 compared with 170,000 members UK-wide, currently export, a slightly smaller proportion of firms than for the UK as a whole.

But Mike Cherry, chairman of the FSB, told The Scotsman that 30 per cent of his members throughout the UK exported or imported, while another 20 per cent were “actively looking to export”.

Today’s report said that almost one in two smaller firms cited the US as a key trade destination, with about one in three (29 per cent) highlighting Australia and similar numbers citing China (28 per cent) and Canada (23 per cent).

At least one in four large businesses in the UK is considering transferring some activities to elsewhere in the EU as a result of Brexit, according to a poll of finance professionals.

Icas (the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland) said that a survey done in conjunction with Brodies law firm of more than 1,000 chartered accountants (CAs) based worldwide found four out of ten predicted that the UK government will not be able to negotiate a free trade deal with the EU ahead of Brexit.

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