The UK government has unveiled a £20m Brexit support package to help SMEs with changes to trade rules with the European Union.
The fund aims to help businesses prepare for the implementation of import controls which come into force from April and July.
Businesses who trade only with the EU and are therefore new to importing and exporting processes will be encouraged to apply for grants of up to £2,000 for each trader to pay for practical support including training and professional advice to ensure they can continue trading effectively.
The announcement follows extensive engagement with individual businesses, leading business organisations and trade associations from across all parts of the UK, including through the Brexit Business Taskforce.
Chaired by Michael Gove the weekly meetings provided an opportunity to identify challenges and find solutions to outstanding issues.
The fund will be administered through the pre-existing Customs Grant Scheme and will open for applications next month.
It also means companies do not have to complete new import declarations for up to six months, unless they are moving controlled goods.
Michael Gove, chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said: “The government has listened carefully to the issues raised by the business community through the Brexit Business Taskforce and that’s why we are bringing forward this financial support to help small businesses adapt to the changes to our trading relationship with the EU.
“This new targeted funding will see small businesses get more of the practical support they need to adjust to the new processes and prepare for further changes as we implement our own import controls in April and July.”
Mike Cherry, national chair at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), called the move “very significant.”
“We have been asking for proper financial assistance of this scale, so that a cash-strapped small business can afford to buy-in expertise, training and practical support. The new fund will make a significant difference,” he said.
Meanwhile, Stephen Phipson chief executive of Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation, said: “nonetheless, there remains an urgent need for the Government to sit down with the EU and address the bottlenecks and red tape which still remain and which are adding substantial costs to doing business. These are more than teething troubles which, if not addressed, threaten to become permanent structural barriers.”