The Forum of Private Business (FPB) is advising UK SMEs to prepare for tough times, following recently published data showing that the UK's total trade deficit widened by £2bn between May and June 2017.
The membership organisation is concerned that the Government and UK businesses themselves are "too heavily focused on Brexit" and not enough on "getting Britain trading".
Ian Cass, FPB chief executive, said: "The latest data covering manufacturing, productivity and trade, together with the Bank of England's Inflation Report, are all telling us that businesses are likely to face difficult economic times in the coming two years. Yet the Government appears to have just one thing on its agenda - Brexit. Many businesses have the impact of increased business rates to contend with, but the Government website to help with appeals is not working," claimed Cass.
He added: "Many businesses are also facing upheaval to comply with the new Data Protection requirements, which are being rushed through to align with European rules, but with no clarity on how they will affect them."
The FPB wants the Government to also concentrate on creating stable economic conditions, as well as increasing opportunities and skills. "Of course we all recognise that there will be uncertainty around Brexit," Cass conceded, "but the Government isn't giving sufficient guidance to businesses on other day-to-day issues that would make their lives easier.
"The best opportunity that many businesses have to expand is through exporting, which is why we've launched our Get Britain Trading campaign. Businesses need additional support now from Government, with assurances that target markets will still be there post Brexit."
The Forum is most concerned about skills. "Feedback from our members tells us that the skills shortage remains the biggest obstacle to growth, and the continued lack of focus on this from Government is disappointing," commented Cass.
"If we take the deteriorating trading data, additional regulatory burdens on business, continued uncertainty in the economy and the worsening skills picture, there's a serious risk that SMEs will find themselves struggling to survive, while the Government's sole agenda is Brexit. Those in power need to balance their priorities if we're to avoid a perfect and painful storm."