They've achieved their ambition of securing Britain's exit from the EU, so what's next for UKIP? According to Margot Parker, the party's spokesperson on small business, UKIP is setting its sights on policies that could benefit convenience store owners.
Q: Does UKIP have any policies on tackling the black market in tobacco?
A: UKIP has not addressed this issue in specific terms in prior manifestos, but it is one of the policies we will be developing for the next general election, whenever that may be.
In general terms we are very strong in terms of addressing fraud and strengthening UK legislation to protect copyrights and intellectual property.
Q: You previously said you wanted to see business rates for small shops reduced. Where do you stand on this now?
A: Making it easier for small businesses to invest their turnover in growth and jobs is something I have always believed in. Reducing overheads in general, including rates, is a huge part of that.
The recent announcement on rateable values will certainly help retailers in some parts of the country. On the other hand, the new rates for telecoms companies could well drive up the costs of internet and telephone business infrastructures, so we will have to wait and see if that cancels out any drop in rates. Within London I feel very sorry for small businesses that already pay very high rents, and are now also looking at significant increases in their business rates – many of them will be forced out of the capital.
Q: According to polls by the NFRN, the vast majority of independent retailers wanted to leave the EU. Why do you think that is?
A: Small business owners by their nature are confident, assertive, independent and possess significant personal initiative. They stand on their own two feet every working day, and that confidence also translates to confidence in the UK being able to thrive on its own terms.
In a more tangible sense, it probably has something to do with the tiny percentage – around 6% – of small businesses that export to the EU. The other 94% ended up having to pay to comply with EU regulations and directives despite there being no real commercial reason for them to do so. They got no benefit from membership but experienced all the expense and petty bureaucratic headaches.
Q: Which EU regulations does UKIP want to scrap that might be seen as a burden to small shop owners?
A: Product labelling regulations would be a good place to start, as they can drive up overheads for no particularly good reason unless someone exports their products to the EU. Aside from that, we would have the freedom to axe regulation that hampers business and industry, with a knock on effect on small businesses. After four decades of interference and imposition it will take a long time to cut through what the EU has given us that we don’t need, but it is a job worth doing.
Q: Retail crime, from shoplifting to physical attacks on retailers, is a huge issue. What would UKIP do to give independent retailers greater protections?
A: UKIP has always been much tougher on crime than the old parties – a look at our most recent Police and Crime Commissioner manifesto goes into more detail about our approach. Meaningful sentences and deterrent measures, and more focus on problems around law enforcement responses are all things UKIP stands for.
Q: Many independent retailers have become victims of hate crime following the Brexit vote. What advice would you give them?
A: The same advice I would give anyone who is the victim of crime – report it, don’t hide it.
No one should be subjected to crime based on their ethnicity or nationality and the best way to deter it is to make sure those committing these offences answer for their behaviour. Sensible measures like working CCTV in their places of business to help identify perpetrators and provide evidence for prosecution are things all retailers should consider.
Q: In your opinion, what are the three biggest issues being faced by microbusinesses, and how does UKIP plan to address these?
A: Administrative costs, difficulty in obtaining finance and late payments.
All of these plague small businesses, including micro-businesses. The cost of compliance to regulations can be up to ten times as much per employee for a small company compared to a big one – about half those costs are imposed by EU regulations, the rest by UK originating rules. Both need to be slashed to help reduce administrative costs.
Micro-businesses also often struggle to get the financial support to grow into something larger – as we said in our 2015 manifesto, we want to make it easier for small businesses of all sizes get the help they need.
Late payments are an eternal problem – big companies delaying payment to their smaller providers and suppliers. UK legislation was ineffective and the framework the EU put in place (which superseded the UK laws) has proved completely toothless, leaving billions owed by big companies to small ones. This is unacceptable and urgently needs to be addressed, which we would do with legislation and enforcement mechanisms.
Q: Last year, UKIP said it was the party for small business (April 21, UKIP website). Is this still the case? Why?
A: As I think my previous answers will show, we are very much on the side of small businesses – we led the charge for independence from the EU, which will free British businesses from the burdens of excessive EU legislation and open up new international markets for them to engage with.
We are devoted to making sure big companies do not bully their smaller colleagues in terms of payment, and want to do everything we can to make starting and growing a business easier to do – we are, after all, a nation of shopkeepers, and that is something to be proud of.