News Article

Government announces £20m Brexit SME support fund

16 February 2021

Michael Gove has announced a £20m SME Brexit Support Fund to support small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) adjust to new customs, rules of origin, and VAT rules when trading with the EU.

SMEs who trade only with the EU and are therefore new to importing and exporting processes will be encouraged to apply for grants of up to £2,000 for each trader to pay for practical support including training and professional advice to ensure they can continue trading effectively with the EU.

This announcement follows extensive engagement with individual businesses, leading business organisations and trade associations from across all parts of the UK, including through the Brexit Business Taskforce.

The weekly meetings provided an opportunity to identify challenges and find solutions to outstanding issues. To provide SMEs with additional support, the fund will be administered through the pre-existing Customs Grant Scheme and will open for applications next month.

It has been set up to support businesses in preparing for the new import controls coming into force from April and July, as set out in the Border Operating Model.

The Government made the decision to introduce new import controls in three stages up to 1 July 2021 to allow traders and hauliers time to adjust to new processes. This means businesses do not have to complete new import declarations for up to six months, unless they are moving controlled goods.

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.

"This new targeted funding will see small businesses get more of the practical support they need to adjust to the new processes and prepare for further changes as we implement our own import controls in April and July.

Members of the Brexit Business Taskforce have welcomed the additional support. Mike Cherry, National Chair at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "Today’s announcement is very significant. Small businesses, often with few cash reserves, are for the first time facing complex new customs processes, VAT requirements and rules of origin. While many have come to FSB for help, we have been asking for proper financial assistance of this scale, so that a cash-strapped small business can afford to buy-in expertise, training and practical support. The new fund will make a significant difference, and we are pleased that ministers have really engaged with us on this, and come up with an excellent response."

Allie Rennison, Head of Trade Policy at the Institute of Directors, said: "This support package delivers on the IoD’s longstanding campaign to help SMEs access the professional advice needed in managing a suite of changes arising from Brexit.

"Smaller firms simply cannot manage many of the processes themselves and require experts across a range of areas to assist with trade continuity, and we commend this government for responding to our call."