02 Feb SME Brexit Support Fund
The Government has set in place a measure of support for those SMEs which may be struggling with post-Brexit trade requirements. Announced on 11 February, the £20m SME Brexit Support Fund will provide grants of up to £2,000 per business to help with areas such as training and professional advice in respect of post-Brexit trade with the EU.
It is envisaged that training requirements for SMEs will include areas such as the completion of customs declarations, managing customs processes, software and systems, and import and export requirements including VAT and rules of origin. Professional advice may be required in all of these areas to ensure full compliance with required declarations and accounting processes.
Applications to the fund are due to open in March although, at the time of writing on 5th March, no timescale has yet been set. Nevertheless we would encourage our clients to consider an early application as we would expect a reasonable level of demand; particularly given the additional controls which are being phased in from April and July.
As expected, there are a number of restrictions on those who can apply. As an SME fund the target market is those businesses which have either been established in the UK for more than twelve months or currently hold Authorised Economic Operator Status. Businesses must also have no more than 500 employees or £1m turnover and must have met previous tax and customs obligations.
Given that this is a post-Brexit grant, those applying will need to be trading with the EU or Northern Ireland. Those looking for advice in respect of trading with other areas of the globe won’t be able to apply for this fund although other areas of support are available.
Perhaps most importantly businesses applying must intend to take some part in the export/import process themselves rather than relying solely on an external organisation. However, those SMEs appointing an external organisation to manage the import/export process or complete customs declarations can still apply for the grant if they need to build up internal capability in order to trade effectively.
Commenting on the new grant Mike Cherry FSB National Chair said: “Small businesses, often with few cash reserves, are for the first time facing complex new customs processes, VAT requirements and rules of origin. The new fund will make a significant difference.” Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the BCC agreed, commenting: “This is a welcome first step in dealing with some of the major issues that small businesses trading with the EU are facing.”