When it comes to Brexit our members have one central request of Government and that is what will future arrangements look like ? Unfortunately it appears it will be some time before we learn the answer.
In the meantime the only thing that people can do is to run their businesses as usual with as much enthusiasm and optimism as they can generate. The very worst thing that could happen is that we talk ourselves down into a pre-Brexit spiral of depression – a trap we must avoid at all costs.
That said, it is reasonable for businesses to express their concerns to Government. By being part of Business West it means our voice in Bath and North East Somerset is combined with those of companies in Bristol, Gloucestershire and Swindon who have explained their main fears.
Airbus’s blunt warning last week about what they see as the significant risk to their UK business from Brexit is something we should to take seriously. Their role as an employer and as an anchor firm for the region’s high tech, advanced manufacturing sector is crucial. They are saying bluntly that they fear ‘severe negative consequences’ as a result of leaving the European Union.
But smaller companies are also concerned. In a Business West survey only 8% of local businesses said they had confidence that government was communicating what changes businesses needed to make to prepare for Brexit whilst only 10% had confidence in the UK government’s negotiating position taking into account the needs of their business
The number one need is to have some comfort over the level of future additional paperwork. In the survey, more than 30% of exporting members say they have no experience of using trade documentation which explains why 65% of all businesses and 79% of exporters highlighted that anxiety.
Secondly, there is a worry about the potential impact on businesses that are part of European wide supply chains including aerospace, automotive but also less high profile sectors.
Third, whilst there is no question that future agreements could lead to new market opportunities we have yet to see very much in the way of detail.
In the meantime we will continue to communicate the fears of our members, ensure our Export Documentation Department is ready and able to help with whatever the future holds but at the same time we will remain as positive as we can be and help maintain a vibrant local economy.