Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday, which is a great opportunity to support and appreciate independent businesses in our area.
It’s been an especially challenging year for small businesses with coronavirus and Brexit creating an unprecedented amount of change and uncertainty. In recent weeks, I’ve spoken to many local businesses that have struggled to stay afloat this year and are really worried about the future.
While the government did take welcome action in response to Covid, its unclear guidance, endless chopping and changing, and last-minute u-turns on furlough and lockdown made it impossible for businesses to plan from one week to the next. This unnecessary confusion led to businesses closing and staff losing their jobs needlessly.
At the same time, with just days until the end of the Brexit transition period, there is still a staggering lack of clarity on what businesses need to do to prepare for new trading arrangements. As Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, I know that that this is causing particular difficulties for businesses in Northern Ireland that rely on moving goods across the British Isles. The absence of detail and engagement from senior Ministers on the most significant change to border management in decades has been startling and irresponsible.
The government must now provide businesses with the certainty and support they need to meet the twin challenges of coronavirus and Brexit. Both of these challenges can be overcome, but British businesses cannot afford any more confusion and irresponsible decision-making from Ministers. They need a government that will get a deal with the EU, take action to recover jobs, and get the economy back on its feet.