One in three exporting small businesses believe their overseas trade will decline as a result of the UK's departure from the European Union, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has said.
The findings come as the final part of a six-month study into the impact Brexit will have on small businesses in the UK.
The FSB claimed that 32% of small businesses are engaged in international trade, whether through importing or exporting, and 92% of those exports go to the EU. A third of those expect their exports to the single market to decline when the UK does finally leave the EU. A fifth, however, expect them to increase.
Mike Cherry, FSB national chair, said: “One in three FSB members trade overseas. Small business exports have been on the rise since the referendum with the lower value of the pound making UK goods and services more competitive.
“As the UK leaves the Single Market any new agreement must maintain the current ease of trade with the EU and not lead to additional administrative or financial burdens.
“For a truly global Britain, we need the Government to enhance specific support for small exporters to reach new customers and to negotiate ambitious UK-specific trade deals with large and emerging markets.”
Highlighting the importance of EU migrant workers to small businesses, the FSB report showed that 20% of small firms employ non-UK EU workers, 47% of which are at a mid-level job.
Mr Cherry said: “FSB research clearly shows the importance small businesses place on being able to access the skills and labour their business requires, particularly mid-skilled workers, who are non-UK EU citizens recruited here in the UK.
“Mid-level skills are vital for small firms, and businesses call for the right to remain for those EU citizens in the workforce here. The design of any future immigration system must ensure demand can be met, twinned with a supply side focus on improving UK education and skills.
“Equally, continuing to attract the very best high-skilled international talent is essential for small businesses operating in sectors such as digital and tech.”