Focusing on Brexit ignores pressing challenges, say BCC

Leaders of the British Chambers of Commerce have called on the UK government to not allow Brexit to overshadow other domestic issues facing the country.

View of Parliament from Westminster bridge
The UK government must not allow its preoccupation with Brexit to deter its from tackling crucial issues facing the country, including the adoption of a new policy to enable businesses to hire the foreign skills they need, leaders of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said.

Domestic concerns other than Brexit

Adam Marshall, BCC director-general, told the organisation’s annual conference in London that the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the country were not related to leaving the EU, but to the fundamental needs of the domestic economy and environment.He called on the government not to let Brexit overshadow all the domestic issues that need urgent attention to boost confidence, improve productivity and create jobs.Aside from delivering a new and much-delayed “clear and easy-to-use” immigration system, the government must address such fundamentals as improving transport infrastructure, building more houses and stabilising the training and apprenticeship systems, Mr Marshall said.“Business know that success so often depends on getting the basics right first. The same holds true for the UK economy. It’s time for Westminster to join us in focusing on the basics. By addressing the less flashy things that always seem to fall between the cracks. We must equip this country for future success – by fixing the fundamentals first,” he said.“Successive governments have acknowledged that more could be done to get the basics right for business. Indeed, the current government’s developing Industrial Strategy is up-front about many of these challenges. Yet the leadership and the infrastructure simply aren’t there to make change happen.“There is a real hunger coming from businesses across the UK for real leadership and vision. Businesses want to see a radical, optimistic vision for the future of the UK. The reason is simple: they want something to get behind. A national sense of mission that unites the efforts of business, government and the public at large with a real sense of purpose. “There are those who would argue that Brexit is that mission, but they have entirely missed the point. Brexit is a process, not an outcome. It has been allowed, by government and opposition alike, to cloud over the rudderlessness of recent years; a convenient excuse to plough attention and resources into a process of disconnection, rather than to take the far harder step of re-imagining Britain for the future and then marshalling all available brainpower, management capacity and financial resources into making it happen.”
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Developing the UK economy

It was a message reinforced by Francis Martin, BCC president, who said in his speech at the opening of the conference that the UK currently found itself “at a crossroads”.“There are major choices to be made over the UK’s future relationship with the European Union. There are major choices to be made about how we develop our economy for the future,” he said.“I can tell you that many of the firms I see are pausing for breath and biding their time, as they seek answers to the many practical questions arising from the UK’s departure from the European Union. Firms...are united in their desire for political decision-makers to deliver clarity, coherence and certainty.“While eyes in Westminster have been focused on slogans and labels, Chamber of Commerce members, from Aberdeen to Accrington, from Cornwall to Cumbria, instead are focusing on the real-world, practical and pragmatic questions. “Who can I hire, and from where, and how much will it cost? Will I need to pay import VAT or tariffs?Will a supplier’s consignment or a customer’s order get stuck in customs? What standards and rules do I need to comply with?“The government of the United Kingdom and the European Commission absolutely owe it to business communities on both sides to provide practical answers to the questions businesses currently face.”
Relocate Magazine Winter 2017 front cover
Read more about the future of the UK industry in the Winter issue of our magazine
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