Latest data shows mountain to climb for small businesses struggling to recover from pandemic – vast new public debt and catastrophic trade figures
"The record breaking figures public debt figures published today are a warning of potential problems ahead," commented Cllr Robin Ashby, who leads on business issues for the Liberal Democrats on Newcastle City Council. "But they mustn't be used by the Government as an excuse to cut short essential support while the economy reopens.
"Small businesses are concerned about the new Indian variant's potential threat to the final steps of re-opening. This must be taken into account in the next stage of the recovery.
"The Government must extend the furlough scheme at least until the end of the year, and unroll an ambitious revenue compensation scheme for small businesses that are still struggling.
"We now know the stark reality of the impact of the past year but the pandemic remains a threat to small businesses across the country and the Government's support must continue.
"Yesterday the CBI published its 6-point plan to transform the UK economy as industry starts to recover from lockdowns and Covid-related measures.
"But the latest trade statistics also out today show what a mountain there is to climb for SMEs wanting to get started in exporting to Europe - the biggest and closest market - and those who want to build on their previous base.
"The loss of nearly a quarter of our trade with the EU, our biggest trading partner should make the Prime Minister and Trade Secretary hang their heads in shame.
"Despite the impact of Covid-19, the figures are clear: this is primarily the outcome of the Government's catastrophic trade deal with the EU.
"Hundreds of thousands of British small businesses that rely on trade with Europe have been abandoned by the Government, and their millions of employees will be rightly worried about their future.
"We must finally see an end to empty Government slogans about the opportunities of Brexit and see concrete actions to protect the jobs and businesses that depend on trade with Europe."
The latest Office of National Statistics show total trade in goods with EU countries fell by over 23% in January-March 2021, compared to the same period in 2018, while goods trade with non-EU countries declined by 0.8%