More than £108 million will be made available to help small businesses prepare for a no-deal Brexit, the Government has revealed.
It comes after the new Chancellor Sajid Javid pledged a further £1 billion to enhance operational preparedness – more than doubling the Brexit funding for this year.
According to Mr Javid, the £108 million will be used to “promote and support businesses” to ensure they are ready for Brexit, including a “national programme of business readiness and helping exporters to prepare for, and capitalise on, new opportunities”.
This will be supported by a new national information campaign to help businesses get ready to leave on 31 October, as well as additional funding for customs agents to train new staff and invest in better IT systems so businesses can get the help they need to complete customs declarations.
Commenting on the news, Mr Sajid said: “With 92 days until the UK leaves the European Union it’s vital that we intensify our planning to ensure we are ready.
“We want to get a good deal that abolishes the anti-democratic backstop. But if we can’t get a good deal, we’ll have to leave without one. This additional £2.1 billion will ensure we are ready to leave on 31 October – deal or no deal.”
While the announcement has been generally welcomed by the small business community, some experts have described the measure as “not enough”.
In a new report looking at how the £108 million will be spent, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said the majority of small businesses are “desperately under-prepared for a chaotic no-deal Brexit on 31 October” but will “happily accept” any new funding to help them prepare.
However, £108 million compared to the wider £6 billion pledged so far to aid in Brexit preparations does “not really cut it”, said the FSB.
“We urgently need more information about what this money is actually for: what kind of support will it fund? How many small businesses will be able to access it? When will they be able to access it?” said FSB Policy and Advocacy Chairman Martin McTague.
He added: “It is welcome but not enough. We need the Government to recognise how much help our small firms actually need to prepare for a cliff-edge no deal in less than three months’ time. More money is being spent on advertising for a public information campaign than on helping the small businesses that underpin our economy.”
The FSB used the announcement to once again call for more support, including making “Brexit vouchers” of up to £3,000 available to small firms, while automatically issuing Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) numbers to all VAT-registered small firms that trade exclusively with the EU.