Small firms take actions after EU export issues
By Rob Freeman | 29th March 2021
More than one in four small exporters have temporarily halted sales to European Union customers according to new research.
The Federation of Small Businesses survey showed 23 per cent had taken the step in the first post-Brexit transition trading the quarter with a further four per cent opting to stop selling into the EU permanently.
Eleven per cent of exporters are considering halting sales to Europe permanently while the analysis said the same proportion have established, or are considering establishing, a presence within an EU country to ease their exporting processes.
Nine per cent are thinking about securing, or are already using, warehousing space in the EU or Northern Ireland for the same purpose.
FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: "At a moment when small firms are doing all we can to return to growth and get our economy firing on all cylinders again, those that do business internationally are being hit with some incredibly demanding, unfamiliar paperwork.
"Three months on from the end of the transition period, what we hoped would prove to be teething problems are in danger of becoming permanent, systemic ones.
"While larger firms have the resources and bandwidth to overcome them regardless, smaller traders are struggling, and considering whether exports are worth the effort anymore."
Small importers are also hard hit by new paperwork with 17 per cent temporarily suspending purchases from the EU and six per cent using EU or Norther Ireland warehousing space.
Seventy per cent of small firms have suffered shipment delays when moving goods around the EU with 32 per cent losing goods in transit and 34 per cent have had goods held indefinitely at EU border crossings.
Of those that have experienced delays, 36 per cent have suffered hold-ups that lasted more than two weeks.
"Our exporters tend to be among our most innovative and profitable small businesses, so it's troubling to see them bearing the brunt of changes," said Mr Cherry.
"The SME Brexit Support Fund marks a much-needed intervention and we'd encourage all those struggling to manage new requirements to apply and for the Government to dedicate further resources if the fund is exhausted, rather than turning down applications.
"Unless more is done to ease the admin burden on those that do business overseas, and increase access to markets outside the EU, it will weigh heavy on our efforts to recover from the most severe downturn on record."
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