2 December

Today is Small Business Saturday, so when you’re out and about doing your Christmas shopping, check out some of your local small businesses for gift ideas, or perhaps pop in to a local coffee shop for a cup of tea and a mince pie.

When you are doing so you might want to think about what small businesses are and how they trade. The fact is that although some small businesses are retail stores, the vast majority are small suppliers providing services direct to the public or to other, larger, businesses. When you are out there looking for customers you are generally looking to supply to businesses larger than your own. So what’s good for the larger business is generally good for the smaller business too.

There are, however, exceptions to this rule. Big companies have the critical mass to cope with large scale regulatory and administrative changes - even though it may cost profitability - smaller businesses lack the resources to cope. 

In the time I ran a small business and worked within SMEs the one thing I didn’t have to consider was bothering with customs administration or visas when I was working overseas or selling into other countries. We didn’t have to prove the origin of our products, we didn’t have to wait for deliveries to clear customers and we didn’t have the costs or the headaches of customs bureacracy. If we had I wonder if we would have bothered exporting at all.

Many of the small businesses I talk to have not even considered the implications of leaving the EU customs union and Single Market as yet. Because when you are running a business you focus on the immediate issues and also, weren’t we all told that it would be “really easy” to negotiate a free trade deal with the EU? There is, however, no way round the fact that Brexit means bureacracy and that’s a massive disincentive for firms looking to move into export markets and a significant additional cost for those already doing so.

So having decided to leave the biggest free trade zone on the planet the UK is now looking to negoitate a free trade deal with that free trade zone. It makes no sense.