Latest News | 3 February 2022

Chamber calls for ‘urgent action’ following Brexit anniversary

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East Midlands Chamber has called for urgent action to improve trade between the UK and Europe, following the second anniversary of Brexit this week.

The region’s leading business representation group is calling for the Government to work with the EU to find a solution to ongoing issues around how the trade deal is interpreted.

It follows huge lorry queues being reported at Dover last week and a survey by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) finding that 60% of UK exporters reported difficulties in trading with the EU in November 2021 – an increase from 49% in January last year.

Scott Knowles, chief executive at East Midlands Chamber, said: “The current delays at Dover appear to be linked to the export of food products across the Channel, with differing interpretations of how trade arrangements work after leaving the EU.

“Given that the East Midlands has a thriving food manufacturing sector with both large and small businesses that export to numerous markets, these bottlenecks have a significant impact on our region’s economy.

“This is on top of the extra bureaucracy that is adding considerable sums to overheads for many SMEs, which are simultaneously being hit by rising prices for raw materials and energy – not to mention struggling to find people with the right skills.

“A perfect storm of Covid-19, Brexit and spiralling inflation means the cost of doing business is becoming a huge concern and could weigh down on our prospects of a strong economic recovery.”

Scott said the business community recognised that goods won’t flow as freely across the Channel now as they did two years ago.

“But the way the trade agreement is being interpreted in 27 different EU countries is a major headache for UK business – especially smaller firms without the cash reserves to set up new EU-based arrangements,” he added.

“Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. It is possible for the UK Government and EU to take a pragmatic approach and work together to reach new understandings on a consistent interpretation of the rules and to build on them further.

“On the second anniversary of Brexit, now is the time for our policymakers to reflect on the issues facing businesses and to find a real solution to them, rather than just offering more rhetoric.”

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