Small businesses have received less than half of the £20 million post-Brexit cash which the government pledged would make up for business lost in the European Union.
Only £8.4m of the support fund has been provided to help businesses as of 6 October, according to Treasury figures, and just 5,352 out of 113,000 small and medium-sized businesses trading with the EU have benefitted from the grants of up to £2,000.
Figures show England has benefitted most from the money, with firms being awarded £7.3 million as compared to £477,000 in Scotland, £434,000 in Northern Ireland and £230,000 in Wales.
The Liberal Democrats hit out at the news, saying the Tories have “shamefully left many small businesses high and dry” and calling for a relaunch of the fund, a significant increase of the budget and a new trade minister for SMEs.
Sarah Olney, spokeswoman for the Lib Dems, said: “Smaller firms have borne the brunt of both the pandemic and the government’s botched Brexit deal.
“But instead of offering business owners support to help them get back on their feet, ministers are clobbering them with a manifesto-breaking tax hike.”
A UK government spokesperson said: “We’ve always been clear that being outside the single market and the customs union would mean changes and businesses would need to adapt to new processes.
“Our SME Brexit Support Fund has provided grants of up to £2,000 to more than 5,000 small- and medium-sized businesses so far.”
Brexit-related trade barriers
Last month, it emerged that Brexit-related trade barriers cost UK businesses £2.2 billion in the first half of this year.
An additional £600 million in costs hit British importers since January according to HMRC data quoted by The Guardian. The cause has been identified as Brexit, because the taxes were not required for EU imports when the Britain was in the single market.
Among the food products which have been affected by “rules of origin” since 1 January were Marks & Spencer’s Percy Pigs.
The rules reportedly show that free trade deals are not cost-free to UK businesses. Thousands of businesses have discovered they have to pay taxes if the products they import are not sufficiently manufactured in the EU.
In August, it was revealed that over two thirds of the UK public feel “left in the dark” about the impact that post-Brexit trade deals struck by the Government will have.
Whilst a series of deals with several countries have been made, matching terms which were in place when Britain was in the EU, and new deals have also been signed, a survey found Brits feel the government has not been transparent about what the agreements involve.