SMALL businesses owners around Bognor Regis have called for clarity about the future of their Euro workers.
Members of Federation of Small Businesses want to know how the triggering of Article 50 to start the formal process of Britain’s exit from the European Union will affect how they run their companies.
The federation has some 1,008 members in the area. Its Surrey and West Sussex regional chairman, Brian Woods, said those who employed members of staff from the EU were anxious to be told how the future of their businesses would be affected.
He said: “Those that employ non-UK EU citizens in their workforce will want early assurance they will remain and that hiring new staff will not mean a new system with extra costs and burdens.
“Access to the right skills at the right time is crucial for the success of a small business. A fifth of FSB members with staff employ non-UK EU citizens, workers that are vital to the UK economy.
“The right to remain for these non-UK EU citizens must be guaranteed at the earliest opportunity to provide reassurance to smaller firms and their workforces.”
The latest official figure for the number of eastern Europeans from the eight countries which joined the EU in 2004 comes from the 2011 census and is 2,500 for Bognor Regis town and 3,177 for the greater Bognor Regis area.
Tuesday saw Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May, sign the letter to signal the start of the historic negotiations about the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
The talks between governments in Britain and the EU will take place during the next two years.
Mr Woods said the FSB would focus its efforts in that period on the European Commission and Parliament to secure pro-business reforms to the single market as arrangements agreed until March, 2019, will become law in this country.
“It is vital that, throughout the Brexit negotiations, the small business voice is not lost and that the final agreement is positive for British business,” he said.
“For this reason, FSB will continue to be a constructive partner with the government on Brexit, especially on issues such as access to markets, to skills and labour and funding – as well as creating the right regulatory environment after Brexit.”
Mr Woods said FSB members who exported and imported needed confidence they would still be able to trade on the same terms.
The government must push for a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU based on ease and cost, and then support small firms to take advantage of new trade agreements with priority markets around the world.
Small business exporters stated the EU single market was still their top market of choice. But they were also keen to focus on the US, China, Australia and Canada.