Trading overseas is crucial to both the UK economy and the small businesses operating in the country, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). The UK business organisation that represents small and medium-sized businesses, revealed the same on Wednesday (25 January) in its report that includes the findings on the business impact of the Brexit vote.
The FSB press release on this report as seen by IBTimes UK showed that 32% of the small businesses in the UK were involved in overseas trade, either as an exporter and/or importer. Of this, 92% of exporting small firms and 85% of importing small firms were found to be trading with the single market of the European Union (EU).
Amid the Brexit vote, FSB's research – which was said to be spread across a six-month period –showed that 29% of exporting small firms in the UK, irrespective of the markets they were catering, expected their level of exports to decline. On the contrary, 20% of such firms said they expected exports to increase.
For imports, the difference was starker. While 31% expected a decline in volumes, 7% expected an increase.
Amid these findings, FSB national chairman Mike Cherry called on the Government to ensure Brexit does not have a negative impact on small exporters. "As the UK leaves the single market any new agreement must maintain the current ease of trade with the EU and not lead to additional administrative or financial burdens. For a truly global Britain, we need the Government to enhance specific support for small exporters to reach new customers and to negotiate ambitious UK-specific trade deals with large and emerging markets," he said.
Apart from this, the research also showed that Brexit would have an impact on employment as UK small firms had many non-UK EU citizens as employees. FSB research revealed that 21% of small businesses employed such citizens, with the majority of them already having not only a residing permit in the UK but also the right to work here.
FSB further said that 47% of small businesses that employ such citizens were dependent on mid-skilled workers, such as mechanics or care workers. Meanwhile, it said 21% of the UK small businesses relied primarily on lower-skilled work such as farm workers and cleaners.
Amid these findings, Cherry further called for the UK to design its future immigration system such that such EU citizens can work in the UK. "FSB research clearly shows the importance small businesses place on being able to access the skills and labour they require, particularly mid-skilled workers, who are non-UK EU citizens recruited here in the UK. Mid-level skills are vital for small firms, and businesses call for the right to remain for those EU citizens in the workforce here. The design of any future immigration system must ensure demand can be met, twinned with a supply-side focus on improving UK education and skills. Equally, continuing to attract the very best high-skilled international talent is essential for small businesses operating in sectors such as digital and tech," he said.