‘Financial support could help SMEs plan for no deal Brexit’

Allie Renison Picture Tony Johnson.
Allie Renison Picture Tony Johnson.
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A leading figure at the Institute of Directors believes the Government should have copied other EU countries and provided financial support to help SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) plan for a no deal Brexit.

Allie Renison, the Institute of Directors’ Head of EU and Trade Policy, also said that the “visibility” of no deal planning in the UK came later than people might have expected.

However, a Department for Exiting the European Union spokesman said the Government had carried out extensive preparations over two years for all scenarios, including a no deal Brexit.

Speaking during a trip to meet IoD members in Leeds, Ms Renison said: “When you look at EU planning (for no deal) the EU sent out documents on what you should do with a no deal at least six months to possibly a year before the UK Government started issuing its own no deal notices.

“One of the things we would have liked to have seen, which you do see in other countries, like Ireland and the Netherlands, is financial assistance being provided by Governments to help businesses to actually plan.

She added: “We don’t really have any of that here in the UK, which is a big concern because most SMEs cannot afford the really tailored professional advice that you need to map out all of your supply chain to figure out how to insulate yourself from any potential impact.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We have carried out extensive preparations for more than two years to help get people and businesses ready for all scenarios, including no deal.

“Last year we published 106 Technical Notices on a range of topics, including advice for businesses on potential changes to data protection, copyright and intellectual property.

“Since then we have accelerated our preparations for Brexit, including publishing over 100 pages of guidance for businesses on processes and procedures at the border in a ‘no deal’ scenario.

The spokesman said the Government had written three times to 145,000 businesses advising them what action they needed to take on customs in the event of no deal. The Government has also advised hundreds of ports, traders, pharmaceutical firms and other organisations which use the border about potential disruption so they can get their supply chains ready, the spokesman said.

The Government has also held more than 200 “outreach and engagement events” since November 2017 across Europe for UK nationals and businesses in the EU.

Ms Renison also said that there was a case for some form of “preferential reciprocal scheme” for labour movement between the UK and the EU after Brexit.

Ms Renison said: “When you look at the issue of geographic proximity, there are lots of other examples around the world where you see countries that are physically close together actually having a preferential scheme for the movement of labour.

“You see that between Australia and New Zealand.. so the same rationale and logic should apply for access to EU nationals particularly when you’re moving engineers, for example, at short notice.

Ms Renison added: “A lot of people have pan-European operations that they need to move staff quickly around.

“So, even if it is not full on freedom of movement, some kind of preferential reciprocal scheme for movement of labour is massively important.”