High Peak MP Ruth George met with members of the local business community to discuss the practicalities of Brexit at a seminar organised with the University of Derby in Buxton.
Over 20 businesses who export, import or trade in the European Union were represented, from multinationals to SMEs, between them employing nearly 2,000 people in High Peak, largely in skilled work in science, engineering and construction.
Major concerns were raised about the lack of certainty for businesses who have to plan now for March 2019 and beyond. Businesses reported they were already seeing increased competition from companies in the EU27, keen to take advantage of the problems Brexit is causing for British businesses.
Several firms reported they were already losing business to EU competitors and some had been forced to open premises and transfer some of their business abroad.
Key issues raised were:
· Bureaucracy leading to delays at ports if we come out of the Customs Union, slowing up supply chains and making it harder to trade with the UK.
· Different regulations would mean UK businesses could not compete for contracts with EU customers in some sectors.
· Local skills shortages mean specialist staff often have to be recruited from abroad but work visas are very expensive to obtain with no guarantee that someone recruited will stay with that particular firm.
· Higher tariffs to trade with the rest of the world when we cease to qualify for the preferential rates for EU countries.
Ruth said, “With less than 12 months until Brexit, there is still huge uncertainty on major sections of our Brexit deal which is affecting businesses in High Peak, local people and our economy.
“I have always said that I want to see a deal that protects our businesses and jobs in High Peak which are so important to make sure we continue to see our local economy prosper. That is why I committed to liaising with local businesses on what they want to see from Brexit.
“I am very worried to hear that local businesses are already suffering some of the practical impacts of our decision to leave the EU, but it was extremely useful for me to hear the realities for our local firms, many of whom feel that they are already at a disadvantage when it comes to tendering for contracts against companies which will remain in the European Union.
“Exporting after Brexit is a real worry without a customs union. Vehicle checks could spell miles of queues around our ports. Uncertainty over the supply chain has added to anxiety and could reduce the capacity of many of our businesses in High Peak.
“I would like to thank all of the businesses who attended who gave me some very open feedback. I have been working with local firms on some of the practical issues on which businesses need answers, and I will now take up more of the concerns raised.
“MPs will be voting on the final Brexit deal so I asked what our local businesses wanted from Brexit. Overwhelmingly, they wanted to remain in a Customs Union with full access to the EU Single Market and free movement of labour after 2020. That is very important for me to realise and to understand the local impact if that is not part of our deal with the EU.
“I am continuing to ask local people as individuals what they want to see from our Brexit deal and it’s not too late for High Peak residents to complete the survey on my website.
“If local businesses who were unable to attend the meeting would like to give their views, or issues for me to raise, I’d encourage them to get in touch.
“I’d like to thank everyone who attended and shared their experiences in a meeting which I think we all found useful.”