Small firms need continued access to EU labour and skills after Brexit, FSB claims

File photo of Theresa May as a report from the Federation of Small Businesses has called for governm

File photo of Theresa May as a report from the Federation of Small Businesses has called for government assurances about continued access to EU labour and skills post-Brexit. Photo: Facundo Arrizabalaga/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Fresh concerns have been raised by small businesses about the movement of labour from the EU after Brexit.

A study by the Federation of Small Businesses showed more than half of small firms (59%) employing EU workers were concerned about accessing skilled staff while 54% were worried about growing their business post-Brexit.

The report, A skilful exit: What small firms want from Brexit, said one in five small companies currently employs EU workers.

Almost half (47%) of these employ mid-skilled staff such as mechanics, office managers and construction workers.

Salena Dawson, FSB regional chairman for East Anglia, said: 'EU workers are a vital part of our region's economy, helping to plug chronic skills gaps across a wide range of sectors, and filling jobs in an already tight labour market.

'From packers, to mechanics, to graphic designers, small employers need to be able to hire the right person, for the right job at the right time.'

The FSB said its report highlighted the need for small firms to have continued access to labour and skills from the EU post-Brexit.

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If Brexit creates additional barriers to recruiting EU citizens, small firms that employ EU workers would consider moving their business abroad, reducing operations, or even closing down, the study of 1,200 small businesses showed.

Ms Dawson said small firms needed assurances from the government that they will be able to access EU workers after Brexit, and also must be given time to prepare new immigration arrangements.

'There can't be a sudden cliff edge preventing small firms from accessing the workers they need. This means having sensible transitional arrangements first, followed by the phased implementation of a new immigration system,' she said.