- A variety of businesses operating in High Peak ranging from multinationals to SMEs were represented.
- The event was held in partnership with the University of Derby
- The summit began with a welcome from Mr Rob James, Corporate Communications Manager of Derby University and a legal perspective from Mr George Ellinson, Senior Lecturer in Constitutional Law at the University.
- Ruth George MP said that following the similar event held in April, she was keen to hear what the views of business were now the things had moved forward and invited participants to ask questions and raise issues over how the Brexit process affected their businesses.
- Although the meeting was told that most small businesses did not expect to be affected by Brexit, all participants, ranging from very small businesses to multinationals saw problems arising as Brexit developed.
- The main concerns raised were over customs delays, certification of products and professional standards, access to the EU services market, availability of skilled workers from the EU and uncertainty causing delays in investment.
- The overwhelming view of those present was that the UK should remain a member of the EU single market and the EU customs union and maintain free movement of workers.
- The overwhelming view of the participants was that they would prefer the UK to remain within the EU.
- Issues Raised by Participants
- I am concerned about how my import/export company, which trades extensively with Italy, will be affected by Brexit and limits on being able to re-locate to Italy.
- My business in the heritage and tourism market is likely to be damaged if I cannot have access to the EU tendering process in order to bid for contracts in the EU.
- Can the Bill be amended to call for a second vote and how amendable is the Bill in total? – Mr Ellison said yes the Bill could be amended.
- Is a Brexit on the Norway model possible? – answer yes but only as a Rule Taker not as a Rule Maker.
- My contacts in the EU wonder what is going on. Important that we talk to Leave voters. The UK does not use existing EU immigration rules.
- We now know what Brexit means – which we did not at the time of the Referendum. The Leave campaign lied and broke the law so should we have a peoples’ vote.
- My company exports over 50% of its output to the EU and elsewhere and I am concerned about the ports. Could a no-deal Brexit really happen? Would voting down Theresa May’s deal make No-deal or Remain more likely? – RG said that it would need Parliament to take control of the situation. She was concerned that the UK might leave the EU in March 2019 and that the Conservatives would then tear up the deal.
- I have a trading and exporting business and sales have dropped in the last twelve months. I sell capital investment goods and customers are scared and holding back – my business can survive but others may not.
- Brexit has caused my company to be down on turnover – staffing has already been reduced and may need to fall further.
- My company is embedded in Europe and I am concerned about the effect on participation in the Greenhouse Gas Trading Scheme. Forward planning is difficult at present because of confusion in the market. I am concerned about future activity in the London construction sector where 25% of the labour force is made up of EU nationals.
- I believe that business need to be consulted before Parliament can vote.
- In a poll of small businesses, 78% said they were not directly affected by Brexit but were concerned about the UK’s lack of productivity, about austerity and Brexit delay. The current deal gets us into a stable limbo but no clear future – could we resolve the future quickly or not? RG said that it could take seven years to resolve the trading relationship – it would certainly take at least two years, so we face years of uncertainty.
- Many building materials come from Europe and prices are rising.
- RG asked if the drop in the value of the pound had helped exporters – but there was no clear consensus from participants.
- Could we leave the EU and then re-join later? – yes but RG questioned whether it would be possible to win a vote to do so.
- We are part of Europe even if we leave the EU – I regard myself as European. Could Parliament vote to Remain? – George Ellison said that the Referendum was advisory.
Could Parliament change the process, so the UK remained in the EU? George Ellison said it could, but RG said she didn’t believe Parliament had the right to do so alone.
Plenary Session on Specific Topics
Customs and Tariffs
- 60% of participants were concerned about this affecting their business.
- Will we end up tariff-free in the long term or not?
- We don’t know where we stand after 2020.
- If there are export tariffs my company may need to relocate.
- Licencing issues in the EU after Brexit is a problem.
- My company needs to be able to trade in Europe.
- RG noted the tendering issue raised earlier.
- We need stability in regulations.
- EU quality marks are used worldwide.
- Health and Safety registration is a concern.
- EU standards are being copied across into UK law
- RG said the EU has 65 preferential trade deals in place which we should retain access to until 2020 and said she would send out a list of the 65 to participants.
- My company need access to skilled EU employees.
- Concern over need for EU workers in construction where the drop in the value of the pound has not helped. Is there a problem for HGV drivers too?
Final Show of Hands Session
- Would a No-deal Brexit be catastrophic? – unclear but 2 felt yes, their businesses might even close.
- Would you like the UK to stay in the Customs Union? – yes by 10 out of 13.
- Would you like the UK to stay in the Single Market? – yes by 9 out of 13.
- Would you like to keep free movement? – yes by 8 out of 13.
- Are there any positive effects of Brexit – 0 out of 13.
- Would you prefer the UK to remain in the EU – 13 out of 13.
- Ruth thanked the University for hosting the event and the participants for their contributions.
- She was asked how she expected to vote in the forthcoming debate and said that she would be weighing up all the comments from the session and the many messages she had received and the results of her recent surveys and public meetings before deciding.
Appendix 1, Companies Represented:
Avanti Conveyors, Furness Vale
Street Cranes, Chapel
Fig Agency, Glossop
Otter Controls, Buxton
Breedon Group PLC
Federation of Small Businesses
Derbyshire Electrical Contracting
Stephen Dawson (Hope Valley Business Club)
Neater Solutions Ltd.
Securiclip Hotel Hangers
Jill Gascoigne (JM Cottrill & Sons
High Peak Borough Council
University of Derby