Trade and talent top Brexit agenda

It will come as little surprise to hear the priorities from small businesses as the UK looks to its future after departing the European Union.

Trade and talent top the agenda, with SMEs urging the government to focus on negotiating an ambitious new trade deal with the EU and building an immigration system that is, flexible and fair and fit-for-purpose.

The importance of getting that deal is underlined by research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) which shows that the EU remains the number one bloc for both small business exporters and importers, when it comes to their future trading aspirations over the next three years.

One in three small firms are already involved in overseas trade, with the vast majority doing business with the EU single market. Looking ahead the USA, Germany and France are considered the most important markets over that three-year period.

The FSB wants a tariff and quota free arrangement on goods and a deal that also minimises nontariff barriers, such as rules of origin compliance requirements or product certification and labelling rules when negotiating provisions.

The mutual recognition of professional qualifications is also a must for businesses that provide services in the EU.

One in three small firms are already involved in overseas trade

All this will not be easy to achieve. And there is no time to waste, the clock is ticking towards the end of the transition period and Lancashire’s SMEs need to know with certainty what our relationship will be with the EU – and how much friction there will be from the new trading agreement.

The sooner they know the sooner they can adapt to the new world and put in the necessary planning and investment to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities.

When it comes to immigration, small firms say a points-based immigration system can work if costs are kept down and the right visas are in place. Again, they need clarity when it comes to the new immigration system and a government that will listen to them.

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