In the past month Devon Chamber of Commerce has hosted a number of Brexit Consultation Meetings in Yelverton, Newton Abbot, Exeter and Torquay to discuss the impact of leaving the EU on the business community. Over 150 companies attended these meetings sharing views and concerns on a range of key issues.
Attending the meetings businesses were asked to consider a number of issues arising from the decision to leave the EU, including; the effect on EU Funding, what the trade priorities should be moving forward, effects of restricting immigration on business, the importance of macro-economic factors (interest and exchange rates etc) and the priorities for changes in regulation. Heart of the South West LEP, Plymouth City Council, Lloyds Bank and Foot Anstey supported these events providing direct input into discussions alongside the Chamber.
Commenting on the outcome of these discussions with businesses, George Cowcher, Chief Executive of Devon Chamber of Commerce said: “Having met with businesses across the county to discuss the impact that Brexit could have on the local economy a number of key issues and actions have been identified. The feedback that has been received will be taken up in the Chamber’s future dialogue with decision makers to ensure that Devon takes advantage of the opportunities afforded by Brexit and mitigates any risks.”
“It is calculated that there is £100m+ of funding at risk in the county. Business thinks it is vital that there is coordinated and sustained lobbying to secure resources from London to replace any funding provided by the EU. Particularly to support infrastructure provision for the South West.
“The freeze on further calls for funding via the LEP is not helpful. Little in the county has been committed and clarification from Government is urgently needed.”
“60% of exports from the South West are to Europe. This is more than the national average. Exporters will need to sustain their ability to trade with Europe and any new arrangement needs to be as close to the current situation as possible.
It is also important to remember Importing, because many exports are where value has been added to imports. Fluctuations in the value of the pound are not helpful, especially when they happen suddenly. The country is currently running a huge trade deficit which is likely to undermine the value of the pound further. It is therefore essential that the Government puts a greater priority and more resources into promoting exports.”
“Simple export documentation will be vital to enable ease of exports. The single market currently means that it’s as easy for businesses to send goods within the UK as it is to Europe. Any trade deal needs to have easy documentation at its heart to avoid creating barriers to export for Devon’s businesses.”
“The fall in the value of the pound makes the UK a more attractive location for holidays – both staycations and from overseas visitors. It’s important that this environment is grasped by the tourism industry, and offer.”
“Overseas workers are very important to the economy in the south west. 7% of the workforce comes from overseas and it is vital for key sectors; agriculture, care and hospitality in particular. Skilled workers are sometimes hard to source locally and there is a need to recruit from overseas, the ability to do this must be protected if businesses are not to be disadvantaged through immigration regulation. Businesses must be consulted if there are to be changes to immigration rules. It is important that any introduction of a points based system includes the need to allow workers to come to support the economy.”
“Businesses do not like sudden changes in the economic environment. This is why stability of interest and exchange rates are important. Although there are advantages in the devaluation of the pound there will be inflationary pressures from the additional cost of imports. This will affect living standards and may raise pressure to increase wages, putting additional pressure on employers. Keeping the value of the pound stable is of high priority for businesses.”
“There is no desire from business for a wholesale change to the regulatory framework. Many companies will need to continue to trade with Europe and will need to use the existing framework. There is a strong belief that one of the problems we have in the UK is not with regulation itself but with ‘gold plating’.
“Pragmatism and simplicity are the key characteristics which business is looking for from the new environment. There is concern that wholesale change or the prospect of wholesale change will create uncertainty and this will further undermine confidence. An early position statement from Government should be sought. There are mixed views about some of the regulatory changes currently in the pipeline including data protection, The EU Travel Directive however does need review.”
Devon Chamber of Commerce incorporates Plymouth Chamber of Commerce and works with its Affiliate Chambers in Brixham, Liskeard, Newton Abbot, Saltash, Tavistock and Torquay, representing over 1,000 businesses in the county.