SMEs 'left behind' as multinational executives get Covid-19 quarantine exemption to invest in UK

Wed 30 Jun 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

business travel

Executives at large multinational firms will be exempt from having to self-isolate when arriving in the UK if they are deemed to be making a significant impact to the economy, as per new rules announced yesterday (29 June).

The FT reports that the exemption will apply to executives travelling for meetings that could lead to investments in the UK creating at least 500 UK jobs.

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng was said to be worried that the UK was “losing out” on international investment to other countries that had similar exemptions for business travellers.

Not routine trips

The exemption could apply to travel for attending a board meeting where a key investment decision is to be made, but not to routine meetings.

Journeys from ‘red list’ countries will not be permitted and executives will need confirmation from the government, as well as a negative Covid-19 test, before travelling.

Left behind

The decision has prompted anger from business groups including the Federation for Small Businesses.

Craig Beaumont of the FSB, told the BBC: “There should not be a fast lane of easements for big business while small firms are left behind”.

Tej Parikh, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, said the initiative seemed “arbitrary” and overlooked “the crucial importance of helping SME business leaders getting back up and running”.

'More damaging' to SMEs

Marco Forgione, director general at the Institute of Export & International Trade, explained that the requirement to self-isolate after travel was “potentially more damaging to an SME” because it would be less likely to have staff overseas.

He also said that SME decision makers are more likely to have multiple roles within their organisation, making the impact of quarantine more significant than at larger firms.

“At the Institute of Export & International Trade we understand that international trade often has to be combined with other responsibilities,” he told the Daily Update.

“Our large business members often employ dedicated supply chain or purchasing departments. In smaller companies, key decision makers will have a broader remit, so those companies will be more exposed to the impact of leaders having to self-isolate for 10 days or more on return from important overseas business trips".

Travel travails

The news comes as the government continues to struggle to establish travel corridors with key trade partners such as the US due to the rise of cases of the Delta strain of Covid-19 in the country, according to government officials.

As well as Covid-19 restrictions, businesses have been contending with new rules for travel in the EU following Brexit.

Business people are now generally required to get a visa to do any paid work in EU countries, with different member states having additional rules and requirements, according to the FT.