As the UK departs the European Union, small businesses are urging the Government to focus on negotiating an ambitious new trade deal with the EU, and building a flexible and fair immigration system.

Research from the Federation of Small Businesses shows that the EU remains the number one trading bloc for small business exporters (62 per cent) and importers (55 per cent) in terms of their future trading aspirations over the next three years.

One in three (32 per cent) small firms are already involved in overseas trade. Of those, the vast majority trade with the EU – 92 per cent as exporters and 85 per cent as importers.

Given the importance of UK-EU trade for small firms, Government should prioritise not only securing a tariff and quota free arrangement on goods but a deal that also minimises non-tariff barriers, such as rules of origin compliance requirements or product certification and labelling rules when negotiating provisions.

Plus, for many small businesses a fair and flexible immigration system is just as, if not more, important than securing our trading future. These firms rely on talent from outside the UK to plug current skill gaps, grow their businesses and contribute to the wider economy. It is critical that workers, that are vital to unleashing the UK’s growth potential, are not locked out by a system that doesn’t meet the needs of the UK’s business community.

One chapter of Brexit may have ended but another has now begun, with little time on the clock to flesh out the crucial details needed to secure a deal that works for all of the UK. The challenge now for the Government will be to secure the comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU and build a new, employer-responsive immigration system before December.