Government must support businesses as Brexit finally takes place, Business West insists

January 31, 2020

The region’s largest business organisation has called on the government to ensure firms get essential support and guidance for life outside the EU as the UK today marks its official departure from the world’s biggest trading bloc.

While the UK is leaving the European Union at 11pm after 47 years, an 11-month transition period is now underway that will shape the way many South West’s businesses trade for decades to come. 

Business West, which runs Bristol Chamber of Commerce and the Bristol Initiative, has been a sharp critic of the government’s handling of Brexit negotiations with the EU since the 2016 referendum.

Its quarterly surveys among its members have also shown the negative impact on orders and confidence of the uncertainty over Brexit and the politically-driven delays over the past three-and-a-half years.

Business West managing director Phil Smith, pictured, said today: “In our region’s business communities, this historic moment will bring a mixture of regret for some and celebration for others – but this is just the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end.

“Decisions made during the next phase of negotiations will influence the business environment for decades to come. Businesses are likely to face significant changes in the way they trade, both in Europe and across the world.

“The government must clearly communicate what those changes will be – and provide timely guidance and support to help firms adapt and make the most of new opportunities as Britain sets its own trading polices.”

He said the region’s business communities were pragmatic and wanted to move on from the emotional arguments around Brexit that have stymied confidence and investment for so long.

“They want to work with ministers to get the details right on issues like customs, regulation and immigration – and they are desperate to avoid more of the cliff-edges that have affected their operations in recent years,” he said. 

“On the domestic front, spades in the ground for new infrastructure, better skills and training, and action to lower the up-front costs facing UK businesses are urgently needed to boost confidence and unlock investment.”

Business West, which represents more than 21,000 businesses through its network of chambers of commerce across the region, has taken a proactive role in providing information on Brexit.

Its pioneering Trading Through Brexit campaign to help firms prepare for life outside the European Union won it the Most Effective Campaigning title at the recent annual British Chambers of Commerce Awards.

The campaign centred on a regular video series fronted by Business West director of policy Matt Griffith, pictured above, offering businesses up-to-the minute practical planning advice. In just over a year it attracted more than 500 subscribers and 15,140 webpage visits.


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