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Progress 'on only two issues'

Business ‘at breaking point’ over Brexit says BCC

Adam Marshall: ‘business patience is reaching breaking point’ (photo: Terry Murden)


Businesses say the UK government has made only ‘limited’ progress on just two of 23 of the issues they consider most in urgent need of attention in the Brexit talks.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) says these issues are ones where clarity is urgently needed so that firms can plan their trade arrangements following the UK’s departure from the EU.

Ahead of Cabinet talks at Chequers later this week on the UK’s negotiating stance, the BCC warns that continued uncertainty on firms’ day-to-day P&L questions is causing a significant slowdown in business investment.

The SNP will today lead a debate in Westminster where it will call for Britain to remain in the single market and customs union “before it is too late”.

The BCC is calling on the UK government to draw a line under internal political debate and deliver urgent clarity on the practical, detailed issues that underpin trade – or face a continued deterioration in investment intentions and confidence. 

To date, businesses have had some assurances on the status of EU nationals in the UK workforce and on the industrial standards regime – hence the ‘amber’ ratings for these two issues. All others remain red, including: 

  • On Tax, whether a business will need to pay VAT on goods at point of import, and will services firms need to be registered in every EU Members State where it has clients
  • On Tariffs, what Rules of Origin firms will have to comply with to receive preferential tariff rates
  • On Customs, whether goods will be subject to new procedures, and delayed at border checkpoints
  • On Regulation, whether checks on goods conducted in the UK will be recognised by the EU
  • On Mobility, whether businesses will be able to transfer staff between the EU and the UK using the same processes as currently
  • On R&D projects, whether UK businesses will be able to participate in EU projects after 2020

The BCC says firms are making contingency plans or considering investment alternatives.

Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “Over the past two years, businesses have been patient. We have supported the government’s drive to seek the best possible deal for the UK economy.

“We have given time, expertise and real-world experience to support hard-pressed civil service negotiators. We have convened all across the UK to ensure that every business community’s Brexit concerns can be heard by elected representatives and officials.

“Now, with the time running out ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU, business patience is reaching breaking point.

“Businesses have every right to speak out when it is abundantly clear that the practical questions affecting the competitiveness of their firms and the livelihoods of millions of people remain unanswered. With less than nine months go to until Brexit day, we are little closer to the answers businesses need than we were the day after the referendum.

“It’s time for politicians to stop the squabbling and the Westminster point-scoring – and start putting the national economic interest first. These are not ‘siren voices’ or special interests. They are the practical, real-world concerns of businesses of every size and sector, in every part of the UK.”

Commons debate

The SNP will lead a debate at Westminster today urging the UK government to back its plans to remain in the single market and customs union “before it is too late” – as time runs out for the UK to agree a deal with the EU.

With businesses increasingly warning about the damage Brexit will do, and the Tories and Labour both at war with themselves, the SNP MP for North Ayrshire and Arran will say “Scotland will not forgive or forget” political parties that put their hard Brexit obsessions over the national interest.

The UK government’s own analysis suggests a hard Brexit could hit Scottish economic growth by 9%. While Scottish Government analysis has revealed the Scottish economy could be up to £12.7bn a year worse off by 2030 under a hard Brexit – a loss of £2,300 per year for each person in Scotland. 

Commenting ahead of the debate, Ms Gibson said: “Tory and Labour plans for a hard Brexit would be catastrophic for Scotland – leaving the whole country poorer and worse off.

“With time running out for the UK to strike a deal with the EU, and the Tories and Labour both at war with themselves, it is vital that common sense prevails before it is too late.”

Doctorate for SCC chief

Scottish Chambers of Commerce chief executive Liz Cameron will receive an Honorary Doctorate from the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) at its graduation ceremony today at Paisley Abbey, in recognition of her career in Scottish business.



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