Struggling small businesses must not be excluded from a Brexit bailout fund, the government has been warned.
Michael Gove, the minister overseeing the UK’s departure from the EU, is developing an emergency fund to help businesses overcome cash-flow problems they may face in weathering the impact of a no-deal Brexit.
However, there are reports the focus will be on helping larger manufacturers and big employers.
Jo James, chief executive of the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, said it was vital that small and medium sized firms were able to access funding.
She said: “There are mixed messages out there – on the one hand, you will read that it is for businesses who are suffering with their cash flow – which implies it is for any business – then you have Michael Gove saying that it is for businesses that are at the point of collapse. There is a hell of a difference between being at the point of collapse and suffering cash flow problems.
“I would hate to see measures put in place just for large businesses or for particular sectors. The government has already highlighted the construction and manufacturing sectors but it would be nice to see support for all businesses out there who might need help over the coming year.
“Over 90% of Kent’s businesses are small or medium-sized and they will probably suffer more because they don’t have the same cash flow; they don’t need as much support but they are more likely to need that support.”
She added it was difficult for smaller businesses to get relevant information about how they could be helped.
Mrs James “Any support that is out there is going to be welcomed but there is very sketchy information. We know the government is setting out plans for some kind of fund but they have been very quiet and secretive about it.
“Given that we look like going out without a deal in 78 days, it would be reassuring for businesses to know now what the government is putting in place and what financial support might be available.”
She said there should be flexibility in any measures offered so businesses of any size in any sector could access help.
Mr Gove revealed last week that he was planning a scheme to help those firms “who may experience some bumps in the road initially.”
Dubbed Operation Kingfisher, the fund would help businesses “temporarily affected by changes of circumstance that are Brexit related,” he said.