Commenting on the announcement that the UK government and EU Commission have agreed a Political Declaration, Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:
“While we welcome the fact that more flesh has been put on the bones of the proposed future UK-EU relationship, the reality is that the clarity and precision businesses need to plan for the long term can only be delivered when the details are hammered out and fully agreed. There are still big questions to answer - including whether businesses will be able to conduct trade between the UK and the EU without significant new barriers or costs.
“For business, this is just the end of the beginning of the Brexit process. Our trading firms will be paying close attention to what happens next, particularly as the proposals are debated in Parliament over the days ahead. Businesses remain deeply concerned about the potential for a political stand-off that leads to a messy and disorderly exit from the EU next March.
“We have raised a number of important questions with the Government on behalf of business communities across the UK, and their responses will inform our continuing assessment of the proposed agreement and its implications for business, investment and the wider economy - as captured in our practical Business Brexit Risk Register.”
Commenting on the announcement from the Prime Minister that the Cabinet has backed the draft Withdrawal Agreement and the political declaration on the future relationship between the UK and the EU27, Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:
“Businesses will recognise the huge efforts made by the Prime Minister and across government to reach this milestone.
“With people’s livelihoods and the future prospects for many companies in the balance, this is not the time for snap judgments. Businesses will be looking carefully and deliberately at the real-world implications of this agreement over the coming days, and expect their elected representatives to do the same.
“After two and half years of uncertainty, this may be end of the beginning — but not yet the beginning of the end. Our firms need clarity and precision on the specific terms of trade they will face in future, many of which are still to be agreed. The avoidance of sudden or multiple changes to trading conditions is crucial to business investment and confidence.
“Our priority will be to assess the implications of these proposals, working closely with Chamber business communities across the UK.”
Commenting on Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech at the Conservative Party conference, Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:
On the PM’s support for business:
“Business communities across the country have been dismayed by the tone of politics in recent months, and the sidelining of their very real concerns. They will be reassured by the Prime Minister’s firm pledge to back business. However, warm words are not enough, and businesses expect concrete measures in the Budget and beyond to fix the fundamentals here at home, and underpin future competitiveness, productivity, and prosperity.
On the post-Brexit immigration plans:
“Businesses have real concerns about the Prime Minister’s plans for the UK’s future immigration policy. Our firms face record high skills shortages at all levels. Immigration policy cannot be just about the best and brightest – companies must be able to access the skills and talent they require if they are unable to train or hire in the UK.
“There are skills shortages in every sector across the country, and the Prime Minister’s proposed approach risks hurting industries such as care, hospitality, retail, and agriculture. The test of the government’s new immigration rules will be whether they let businesses access skills and talent quickly and easily when companies can demonstrate that they have been unable to hire or train the people they need here in the UK, and to do so without increased red tape and bureaucracy.
“Firms will judge the Government on the clarity they provide on the real-world questions around Brexit, and whether the UK will avoid a messy and disorderly exit from the EU. Firms will be relieved that the Prime Minister views no deal as a bad outcome – but clarity and precision is required urgently if businesses and our communities are to thrive in the months and years to come.”
Commenting on the draft rules on the EU Settlement Scheme statement of intent, published today by the Home Office, Mike Spicer, Director of Research at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:
“The guidance published today will be welcomed by employers and EU employees alike. It provides clear information on the status of EU nationals resident in the UK and those who arrive during the transition period after March next year. We know that some businesses lost European employees in the aftermath of the referendum, owing to the uncertainty they faced, so assurances that they can stay are a positive step forward. The next step is for the draft rules to be laid before Parliament and we urge all Parliamentarians to ensure this stage is concluded swiftly.
“We look forward to working with the Home Office to ensure greater clarity on this and other areas in the long term.”
Commenting on the trade statistics and key short-term indicators for April 2018, published today by the ONS, Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:
“While there was a slight monthly pick-up in construction output, the longer-term trends confirm continued weakness, and together with the widening in the UK’s trade deficit and weakening industrial output, point to a bleak start to the second quarter. While we still expect that UK GDP growth will pick-up in Q2, as economic activity rebounds from the bad weather in Q1, growth is likely to remain under pressure in the medium term.
“The deterioration in the UK’s trade position in April is a concern and means that the UK’s trade deficit remains significantly higher than the historical average. This deterioration largely reflects a marked decline in exports in the month.
“It is possible that the UK is now moving past the recent sweet spot for exporters, with growth in key markets moderating and the impact of the post-EU referendum slump in sterling, which has helped some exporters, subsiding. The possibility of an escalating trade war has added to the downside risks for exporters.
“More must be done to support UK exporters by addressing longstanding issues, from the lack of practical support for exporters to chronic skills shortages.”
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