By Sophie Dean and Katherine Green, Director Generals for Borders and Trade, HMRC
Signing an FTA with the EU was an important milestone in the UK’s Brexit journey. But that historic moment came with a challenge for HMRC: how do we help the UK’s smaller businesses continue to trade with Europe?
We know FSB members don’t need reminding that our new relationship with the EU – outside the Single Market and Customs Union – brought a series of changes that businesses need to adapt to. That’s why we’ve been working with individual sectors to understand what barriers they might be facing, and while most continue to trade effectively, it’s clear that small and micro businesses need more support from government.
The £20m SME Brexit Support Fund is the latest tool to help these businesses navigate the changes. The scheme enables traders like you to access practical support, including training and professional advice for new customs, rules of origin and VAT processes, with grants of up to £2,000 per business.
Small businesses that trade goods solely with the EU – and are therefore new to importing and exporting processes – can apply for the grants. You can also apply if you move goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
We’d like to thank the FSB team, alongside the Institute of Directors, for working with us to develop the scheme, which is now open for applications. HMRC is determined to help small businesses to adjust to and flourish in the new trading environment post Brexit. Supporting small businesses to understand new customs procedures is vital to that. Our trade deal with the EU was the biggest bilateral trade deal signed by either side, with zero tariffs and quotas, covering trade worth £668bn in 2019 prices. To add some context, that equates to more than £10,000 of goods bought and sold for every person in the UK. We do not take for granted just how vital the UK’s small businesses are to the success of this trade deal and the prosperity of our economy.
Of course, government support for small business isn’t limited to the SME Brexit Support Fund. We’ve met with FSB members and other businesses from all parts of the UK through weekly Brexit Business Taskforce meetings, helped firms move goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland through our Trader Support Service and offered a range of digital support, including webinars with experts and our Brexit checker tool on GOV.UK.
You may have heard that full import border control processes will now be introduced on 1 January 2022 - six months later than originally planned. The UK’s SMEs should use this time wisely to ensure they’re accessing as much support as possible to help them trade.
The UK is emerging from its biggest economic shock in 300 years, the coronavirus pandemic. We are confident that, with the right support, small businesses will play an important role in the recovery and future of our country. More information about the SME Brexit Support Fund, including details of how to apply, can be found here.