Government encouraging SMEs to sign up for funding to help with Brexit

The Government is encouraging UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to register for funding to help them cope with a new customs system following a potential no-deal Brexit.

In December, the Treasury and Revenue & Customs unveiled an £8 million training fund for companies and trade intermediaries such as freight forwarders to apply for.

However, according to BBC Newsnight, the funding has had a surprisingly low take-up with just 741 companies applying for grants so far.

This is despite an estimated 240,000 UK businesses that currently trade with the EU. Many of which would be expected to need training if the customs system changed.

In a no-deal scenario, the UK would immediately leave the EU with no withdrawal agreement. This would include leaving the single market and customs union, so the way in which companies trade with the EU would change.

The funding aims to support the training of employees and improvements to IT systems to complete customs declarations following a no-deal scenario.

Many people are calling for more to be done to make businesses aware of the help available.

Mike Spicer, Director of Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce said: “Such a low number of firms applying for grant-funding is concerning and signals the need for much greater levels of awareness among affected firms to ensure they are prepared.”

Nicole Sykes, head of EU Negotiations at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), followed a similar sentiment, saying: “Many small firms would bite the Government’s hands-off to access funds to support no-deal preparation.

“But if information about those funds is buried in a corner of a website, then take-up is going to be low.”

On top of this, Newsnight also claims that less than a third of the affected companies have so far applied for an economic operator and registration identification (EORI) number from HMRC.

This is the most basic official authorisation that companies would need to continue trading with the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The Government are now thought to be preparing a £100 million public information campaign to prepare the country for a no-deal outcome.