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Opinion: Five key areas as Brexit becomes reality

Opinion-May-June-Detail

With Article 50 set to be triggered by next March, FSB is focusing on five key areas in its efforts to influence the Government’s negotiating position as it leaves the EU, writes FSB Policy Director Martin McTague.

The current priority for FSB is Brexit and trying to make sure that we get a good deal.

The announcement of the timing of the triggering of Article 50 has focused minds, and FSB is on the front foot, with the Brexit policy unit up and running and the research and policy development work well underway.

We are well placed to influence the Government’s negotiating position before Article 50 is triggered by the end of March next year.

We are focusing on five areas:
● Keeping access to the European Single Market, and opportunities for exporting to non-EU markets, as simple as possible
● Ensuring access to labour, talent and more general mobility, including protecting the position of EU nationals working or running businesses in the UK
● Seeking assurance about EU structural funds, and how best to provide business support and access to finance
● Regulation. The announcement of the Great Repeal Bill has provided welcome certainty on regulatory issues until we leave the EU
● Borders, and other specific devolved issues – the thorniest one being the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic

We’re doing consultation, research and policy development with members to try and understand the impact that exiting the EU will have on small businesses throughout the UK, as well as looking at how to mitigate risks and exploit future opportunities.

Members can expect requests from FSB to complete surveys – these will enable us to influence Government thinking and help to make Brexit as positive an outcome as possible for small firms, so please do respond.

Away from Brexit, we’ve met Chancellor Philip Hammond and obtained reassurance that the gains we won in the Budget last year on business rates are secure. We spoke about our concerns about the rush to implement mandatory quarterly tax reporting, and he’s sympathetic to our desire to support small businesses to get it right first time.

Further, he has agreed to FSB members participating in the testing of the new system, which will provide direct feedback to Government.

We are also feeding into the Government consultations, including the level at which we believe the exemption and deferral thresholds should be set.

FSB was also out in force at the recent party conferences. The Shadow Chancellor was the main speaker at our event at the Labour conference, while Jeremy Corbyn mentioned FSB in his speech as being the main consultee on self employment.

We also met London Mayor Sadiq Khan, and were the only business organisation he met at the Labour conference.

We were also pleased to be part of Secretary of State Justine Greening’s announcement on the Opportunity Areas initiative. This presents a chance to boost the employment prospects of young people in areas that are most in need of support.

Finally, by now, members should have found out their new business rates valuation, and are now likely to be contacted by companies offering ‘deals’ to save money.

FSB is aware of companies trying sell services purporting to help small firms reduce business rates bills. Working with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, we will soon be publishing advice for firms seeking professional help with business rates appeals.

MARTIN MCTAGUE is Policy Director at FSB