The government is being urged to increase small business funding as post-Brexit red tape threatens their viability.
The cross-party UK Trade and Business Commission made the call to action after hearing evidence from several companies that are struggling to adapt to the UK’s trading relationship with Europe in the aftermath of Brexit.
The commission, which launched in April, has also called for the government to appoint a dedicated SME trade minister, as well as a single portal where small business owners can access advice on international trade.
To date, eligible UK businesses have applied for just £4.3m of the £20m available Brexit support fund, which is scheduled to close at the end of June.
The commission has asked the government to significantly increase the funding and loosen the eligibility criteria so that businesses can get the financial help they need.
Hilary Benn MP, co-chair of the UK Trade and Business Commission, said: “The heartfelt testimony we’ve heard about business being lost, extra costs and complex bureaucracy is the clearest sign that our new trading relationship with Europe is not working for many small businesses.
“SMEs account for three fifths of the employment and around half of turnover in the UK private sector. They are in urgent need of assistance and these recommendations are the first step.”
In a further blow to UK businesses, Chancellor Rishi Sunak told the Financial Times that he would not be extending the support schemes despite the easing of restrictions being delayed.
He said that the government has deliberately “go big and go long” in the support offered during the pandemic and “erred on the side of generosity”.