by Sietske de Groot and Jayne Almond, the Federation of Small Businesses.///
Last week the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) launched its manifesto for the 2014 European Elections in Brussels. In a packed room in the European Parliament, we presented our calls on MEPs, on candidates and on parties. The manifesto sets out our ideas for boosting the single market, improving the quality of regulation, and driving economic growth and jobs across Europe.
The European market has been good for business. UK firms have benefited from the lifting of trade barriers and free movement of goods and services that stem from the creation of the Single Market. The benefits of 500 million customers and 23 million businesses on the doorstep cannot be underestimated. However, the EU needs reform and more flexibility for our businesses to compete with emerging powers in today’s global economy.
The FSB has 200,000 members across the UK, representing a huge variety of sectors. A fifth of our members trade abroad, predominately within the EU, but all are affected by EU laws. Our members see real opportunities from ambitious trade deals which make exporting easier, from boosting e-commerce and trade in services. However, they also point out that laws which are complicated to understand or poorly enforced are a burden on business. Too often small and micro firms struggle with rules made for businesses with 200 or 2000 employees.
Economic difficulties have increased the pressure on MEPs to act – and sometimes they act without Thinking Small First. Some fail to see the importance of small businesses and propose impractical changes to draft legislation. So we are asking the next intake of MEPs to carefully consider the impact of regulation on the smallest businesses, to examine the evidence and challenge impact assessments. It’s not about blanket exemptions, but designing effective, proportionate regulation which is fair to small firms.
We want important trade deals such as the upcoming Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) to support the growth aspirations of small firms. For example, one member says she has to fill in forms by hand and needs to have a US bank account. Small firms can easily be deterred by such things. A small business voice in TTIP is essential, not only to facilitate trade between US and EU small firms, but also as an example for other trade deals.
We want to see a culture of entrepreneurship flourish so our home-grown start ups innovate, survive and thrive. Europe should be the natural home for those entrepreneurs with a quirky idea who develop, market and then sell it all over the world.
With just under 100 days till the elections, we will be keeping the pressure on candidates to ‘Think Small First’ in everything they do – as they shape the manifestos, campaign in their constituencies, begin work in Parliament and scrutinise the proposed Commissioners.
(Sietske de Groot and Jayne Almond work in the EU team of the Federation of Small Businesses)