The COVID-19 pandemic has hit contractors hard and many are still struggling to recover from it. But now, those who have clients in Europe may face another threat – Brexit.
Although the UK has already left the EU, it agreed an 11-month transition period, due to end on 31 December, where it remained subject to EU regulations.
When the transition period ends, the UK will leave the EU’s single market and customs union and if no trade deal is agreed, it could introduce numerous obstacles for businesses that rely on this.
Negotiations with the EU resumed in parliament this week. But with no clear trade deal on the table, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is calling for “transition vouchers” to help the self-employed, who make up 99 per cent of the business community.
The vouchers would give contractors and small businesses a set amount to spend on expertise, tech and training that will enable them to navigate a new relationship with the EU.
Mike Cherry, FSB chair, said: “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.”
“Negotiators need to agree a small business-friendly deal, and swiftly. 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.
“Given that small firms have been flat out managing Coronavirus-linked disruption for the past six months, the government needs to step in with substantial financial support to assist with transition preparations.
“Transition vouchers mark a sensible way forward. […] If the government wants firms to take preparatory action over the next few months, it needs to help them to do so.”
Earlier this month, the government announced a new campaign that will provide information to on EU-based businesses on how to trade with the UK, after it leaves the single market and customs union.