Supply chain · 21 March 2017

The post-Brexit trade deals small business owners most want to see

Trade deals
Post-Brexit trade deals with the US and China were among those demanded by small UK exporters

Small UK business owners have made clear which new markets they’d most like to enter when Britain leaves the EU, as a new report revealed a “wish list” of post-Brexit trade deals.

Published by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the report found that almost two-thirds of small business owners believed the EU single market should remain the greatest trading partner, and the government should make it a priority to secure the best possible deal with the bloc.

However, the findings uncovered a growing global outlook from small business owners.

The US was the closest rival to the EU single market, with half of small business owners hoping for a closer trading relationship. Australia (29 per cent), China (28 per cent) and Canada (23 per cent) followed as the economies UK firms wanted greater ties with.

Commenting on the findings, FSB chairman Mike Cherry said business owners had made their trade ambitions clear.

“Small firms trade with countries based on ease, cost and value and any future trade deals must deliver on these key aspects both with the EU single market and non-EU markets,” he said in a statement.

Despite current dependence on the single market, one in four business owners stated that the introduction of any trade tariffs would seriously deter them from exporting to EU states.

Just 45 per cent of small exporters believed that the single market was cheaper than trading with non-EU states, and almost three-quarters are already trading to countries across the world.

However, the appetite for global markets would need to be met with post-Brexit trade deals that improved access and protection for smaller firms.

Cherry called for a “small business chapter” in future UK trade deals to protect the interests of smaller firms, ensuring direct representation for owners in government negotiations.

The FSB emphasised the importance of creating a “strong narrative around the ease of trading” with new markets to encourage first-time exporters to target international economies.

The report also cited “emerging markets” in India, South Africa and the UAE as crucial for “ambitious and growth-orientated” startups. It  pushed for greater resources in the form of translators and distributors to support new exporters in these markets.

Despite the enthusiasm for trade deals with large economies such as the US and China, Cherry added that the single European market remained “crucial” for small business owners “and cannot be undervalued”.

He clarified the organisation’s position – ensure that government used post-Brexit trade deals to secure the “easiest and least costly access” to the single market.

“This includes a new customs arrangement with the EU that allows for frictionless cross-border trade,” Cherry added.

The report also pushed for greater efforts to champion the UK as a source of products. Recent research confirmed the popularity of UK-made goods across the world, and the market potential of “brand Britain” could help trigger a new wave of exporters.

MPs urge small business exporting ahead of formal Brexit talks

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Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.