Trade bodies to bid for no-deal ‘Readiness Grants’


 The government has called on 19 industry groups representing hundreds of thousands of businesses to think of “creative and practical” ways to help businesses prepare for the aftermath of a hard Brexit.

Groups have been invited to bid for funding in the form of “EU Exit Business Readiness Grants” to develop guidelines for firms to help them deal with the likely effects of a no-deal scenario.

The move came as Michael Gove, the minister overseeing readiness for no-deal, met with trade bodies to discuss the matter of planning.

“We are inviting creative and practical proposals on actions registered business representative organisations and federations can undertake to drive business preparedness beyond your routine support and regular communications with members,” the paper distributed at a meeting chaired by Mr Gove said.

“These proposals should focus on how you can engage, advise and support UK businesses to ensure they are ready for a no-deal exit.” Officials “would be interested” to hear from trade bodies what government action “would have the most impact,” it added.

Business wants clarity on available funds

The initiative highlights growing concerns that businesses, especially SMEs, are not ready for a no-deal Brexit. Of an estimated 240,000 firms that need to apply for new paperwork to continue trading with the EU, only about a third have done so to date.

A government spokesman said: “We recently announced £108m of funding to promote and support businesses to ensure they are ready for Brexit, including a national programme of business readiness. We will also soon launch a public information campaign setting out what business and the public need to know and do to prepare.”

But business leaders say it is unclear whether there is actually more or less money than £108m available.

One person with knowledge of the initiative said: “It’s very late in the day and it’s hard to see what can be done . . . Anything to help is good but what’s not helping is ministers’ public message that ‘no deal will be alright’ – there’s a lot of tension.”

The initiative comes amid growing concern that small firms in particular are not ready for a no-deal exit from the EU.

One person who has seen documents relating to the plans said: “There’s really not a lot more we can do beyond push out our guidance – it’s very hard to connect with small business members.”

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