A cross-party group of MPs is urging UK small and medium-sized businesses to share their concerns about the potential impact of Brexit on their operations. Labour's Kate Green, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on migration, told IBTimes UK about the inquiry.
"We think big businesses are well represented around the table when it comes to talking with government," she said.
"But we are anxious to make sure that smaller businesses that may rely on European labour – perhaps skilled, unskilled or seasonal labour – that we have a proper understanding of their issues and are able to feed in their concerns as the Brexit debate continues."
The MPs are also looking for written and oral evidence from public-sector organisations, particularly in the health and care sectors.
The group will hear from stakeholders throughout February and March, with a plan to publish a report in late April.
Green, who has represented the Greater Manchester seat of Stretford and Urmston, has already asked a local network of businesses about their concerns. "For the smaller businesses, free movement has been less of an issue in my constituency, it's been more about regulation," she said. "They are quite happy to be governed by Europe-wide standards, but they are keen to know what the situations might be in the future."
A fifth (21%) of the Federation of Small Businesses' (FSB) members currently employ EU citizens, with almost half of those (47%) predominantly employ highly sought, mid-skilled workers to address acute existing skills shortages, according to a report published in January by the business body.
FSB officials have also held talks with Brexit secretary David Davis as well as with Labour's shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer. The UK government has promised to curb immigration as part of its negotiations with Brussels, which are expected to begin in March.
Theresa May has revealed that she would not seek to maintain the UK's membership of the EU's single-market and has called for what she has called a "bespoke" customs arrangement with the economic and political bloc.
Davis unveiled the government's 77-page Brexit white paper to MPs in the House of Commons on Thursday (2 February). The SNP's EU spokesman at Westminster, Stephen Gethins, described the document as a mess. "This white paper is a mess, it's a boorach [great confusion] and it is going to have an impact on each and every one of us. People deserve better," he said.
- Government will provide certainty and clarity to politicians and businesses
- UK will 'control our own laws' by quitting the European Court of Justice
- May will strengthen the 'precious union' between England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland
- There will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
- UK will 'control' EU immigration, while recruiting the 'brightest and the best' from around the world
- Government will seek a reciprocal residency rights deal for EU and UK workers 'as soon as possible'
- To protect workers' rights
- Ministers will seek a 'bold' and 'comprehensive' free trade agreement with the EU
- UK will seek a customs agreement so that it can broker its own trade deals with non-EU nations
- May will keep European science and innovation ties in bid to keep the UK a 'world leader'
- UK will continue to work with the EU in bid a bid to combat the threat of terrorism
- Ministers will seek to avoid a 'cliff edge' and seek a smooth split from the EU