Small UK firms issue Brexit trade talks warning over staff and exports
By Juliet Mann in London

British businesses have claimed that a lack of information about the UK's relationship with the EU after Brexit is preventing them from planning for the future. Business leaders at the Institute of Directors said they are holding back from making investment decisions until there is more clarity.

The UK government has said future trading relationship with the EU will be negotiated by the end of the year, but that has left some small and medium firms feeling like they are in limbo.

Merilee Karr, CEO of short-let accommodation firm UnderTheDoormat said: "It's just not good enough that there are no plans and we are exiting without clarity of what this means for businesses. As we expand to other markets, I don't know what the regulation or the legal framework will look like."

UnderTheDoormat is a home-stay service with around 300 properties on the books. That requires having a reliable network of the right talent for housekeeping and greeting services.

"I really worry for us and any other hospitality business that needs cleaners," Karr added. "Where are we going to find the people who want to do those jobs, if we don't have talent coming from outside the UK?"

From hospitality to manufacturing, businesses are still in the dark on what Brexit will mean for their products, services and people. 

In the west London suburb of Greenford, the Brompton Bicycles factory rolls out 50,000 fold-up bikes a year. Special editions like the new electric model have been good for business, helping sales and profits ride higher. 

The firm's chief commercial officer Stephen Loftus said: "Germany is the biggest e-bike market. The Netherlands sold more e-bikes than normal, standard pedal bikes last year. It is incredible in terms of growth.

"Undoubtedly our biggest market for growth is Europe, so it is important we are in Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Belgium. We don't want disruption to the supply chain."

Brompton Bicycles planned early to avoid getting in a spin. Contingencies included £1m worth ($1.3m) of bike parts and steel components.

And the firm is stepping up a gear, setting the wheels in motion for its range of battery-aided bikes to make up at least half its business within the next decade. The goal is to double production in five years - provided Brexit doesn't get in the way.

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