Extend Brexit Support Fund to help more small businesses, says FSB

  • 13 Aug 2021

Only £6.8m of a total £20m fund has been allocated to businesses from the Government's Brexit Support Fund.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is calling for the fund, now closed to new applications, to extend to a second round.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove launched the Brexit Support Fund in February of this year, encouraging businesses trading with the EU to claim up to £2,000 each to help pay for training and professional advice. However, figures show businesses who applied only received £1,555 rather than the £2,000 maximum.

 

Hilary Benn MP, co-chair of the cross-party UK Business and Trade Commission, said the support scheme was “more of an obstacle course, which discourages applications by making SMEs jump through too many hoops for a very small return”.  

Businesses were only able to apply if their overseas trading was purely focused on the EU, including Northern Ireland, with their imports and exports not going anywhere else. Business groups did lobby to have the rules relaxed so that firms that were predominantly trading with the EU could apply.

HMRC, who administered the scheme through PwC, said that 15,000 firms registered their interest in the scheme, with 5,414 applying for £8.5m in funding. Some applications are still being processed by PwC.

FSB is calling for a second round that is open to more businesses. Craig Beaumont, Chief of external affairs at FSB, said: “Businesses that derived more than 90 per cent of their export-derived revenue from trade with the EU were locked out because they had exported occasionally to non-EU markets.

 

“These businesses are still overwhelmed by the volume of changes to EU trade and need support.

“Additionally, it was not a small business friendly, easy-to-use website — it was instead a repurposed customs intermediaries application which was confusing to navigate without knowledge,” added Mr Beaumont.

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