'The government has listened,' IOE and IT chief says as £20m fund for SMEs trading with EU is unveiled

Fri 12 Feb 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

The government has announced a £20m fund for SMEs needing support to adjust to new rules for trade with the EU. 

Firms are being encouraged to apply for up to £2,000 in individual grants that can go towards practical support with importing and exporting, “including training and professional advice to ensure they can continue trading effectively with the EU”, the government announced.

Help to prepare

The move comes ahead of new customs controls that will begin in April and July, with Marco Forgione, director general of the Institute of Export & International Trade, welcoming the move and its timing.

The Institute has pushed for an extension to last year’s HMRC grant funding for Brexit-related training.

Forgione said: “We are glad the government has listened to the views we made on behalf of our members that at this time of uncertainty around moving goods in and out of Europe, funds have been made available for support, advice and training.”

Six months' grace

Although GB-based companies have had an additional six months to prepare for new procedures since the transition period ended on 31 December 2020, there are concerns that small firms in particular need more help.

“If large retailers are uncertain about the new rules, imagine how difficult it is for micro-businesses,” Forgione noted.

The £20m in government grants, called the SME Brexit Support Fund, is administered by HMRC. “This targeted support for smaller firms is really welcome, as they may not have the bandwidth for the extra administration involved in the new trading rules,” Forgione added.

‘We listened’

Cabinet Minister Michael Gove 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.”

The fund will be administered through the pre-existing Customs Grant Scheme and will open for applications next month.

Forgione said the IOE&IT encouraged all UK businesses trading with the EU “to use this opportunity to acquire the knowledge needed to ensure that their trade is as a seamless, friction-free and compliant as possible”.