The Government will this week launch a new organisation designed to support and champion the interests of small and medium-sized British businesses in Europe.
The venture, called Small Business Europe, is to be based in Brussels and is being fully funded for two years by the Government through its small business service, an agency of the Department of Trade and Industry. The initiative will cost the government just over £250,000; this funding will trail off after the first two years.
The organisation aims to offer a voice for enterprises within European institutions and improve the regulatory environment for small businesses.
"The aim is to maximise small business interests at European level," said Ben Butters, director of Small Business Europe. "We want to do this by telling them what is happening here and by getting feedback from them.
"We are trying to level the playing field for small and medium enterprises," Mr Butters added.
Although larger companies and corporations have been active in protecting and promoting their interests by lobbying EU decision-makers, the interests of smaller companies – defined as those with 250 employees or less – have until now tended to go unheard.
David Irwin, chief executive of the Government's Small Business Service, told the Independent on Sunday: "British smaller businesses have neither the time nor the resources to monitor developments in Brussels, even though so many decisions taken there will ultimately affect their activities and results. Small Business Europe aims to change that by improving communication and relations between the EU institutions and the UK small businesses."
Mr Butters agreed that the current situation was a difficult one. "There isn't a single voice for UK small and medium enterprises at the moment," he said.
The unit, which is an independent body and, according to Mr Butters, is keen to give UK small businesses a genuine voice, will survey small companies through business support agencies. In this way it hopes to be able to lobby on their behalf.