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'We want answers': Black Country business chiefs' Brexit demands

By Richard Guttridge | Business | Published:

A list of Brexit demands that business bosses insist are vital to the survival of Black Country firms has been sent to the Government.

Business leaders want answers over Brexit

Uncertainty about post-Brexit Britain is harming companies’ ability to plan for the future, according to an influential group of business chiefs.

Now the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) Brexit Group has delivered a list of eight key demands to Business Secretary Greg Clark, they say are crucial to creating growth and jobs after Brexit.

They include:

  • Calls for a smooth customs arrangement with the EU.
  • A more seamless system or employers to recruit from overseas when required.
  • Further details about replacement of EU funding.
  • Clarity over future trading relationships and conditions to allow for future planning.

The letter to Mr Clark says: “The voice of regions like the Black Country, especially given the current era of manufacturing resurgence and our heritage in this sector, must not be forgotten in Britain’s departure negotiations, particularly that of local business.

“Action on the enclosed asks will give us a stronger chance of achieving faster growth, higher productivity and more quality jobs in the Black Country.”

Pat McFadden, Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East and a former business minister, said the Government had not provided any clear answers on its Brexit strategy.

Pat McFadden

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He said: “The LEP is not alone in pushing for clarity. Business, unions, voters and other countries throughout the world all want clarity on the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

"Yet two years on from the referendum when we were told all of this would be easy, big questions still remain unanswered.

"And the Government is doing more negotiating with itself than with the EU.

“At the root of all these questions regarding customs, trading rules, the hiring of workers and so on is the question: how close an economic and social relationship will we have with the EU once we have left?

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"On that issue I believe we should put prosperity and jobs first and not make decisions which will make the UK less attractive for inward investment from around the world or put needless trade barriers between us and our main overseas market.”

Call for clarity

Business leaders in the Black Country have called for immediate clarity on the Government’s Brexit plans.

A Brexit Group formed by the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) said there needed to be clear answers about future trading relationships and conditions for businesses so firms could be confident about the future.

A letter with eight key Brexit demands has been sent to the Government, which has been asked to ‘clarify your expectations of future trading relationships and trading conditions, allowing businesses the ability to plan for a successful future’.

The group, which consulted more than 20 business leaders in the region, also criticised Theresa May’s plan to take Britain out of the customs union, insisting there needed to be a ‘smooth customs arrangement’ with the EU if businesses in the region are to thrive after Brexit.

Access to overseas workers must not be restricted by Brexit, the group said, while the Government has also been asked to provide assurances funding businesses currently receive from the EU will be replaced.

Ninder Johal. Picture: Jas Sansi

Ninder Johal, an LEP board member and former Chamber of Commerce President, said companies were ‘in the dark’ about Britain’s post-Brexit future.

"Businesses are asking for frictionless trade. We need to ensure we remain competitive and the imposition of tariffs might make that a problem," he said.

“The customs problem is acutely important because we have a number of exporters and importers, particularly around the automotive sector.

"We have Jaguar Land Rover and a thriving aerospace sector."

Theresa May wants to pull Britain out of the customs union, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he wants the country to remain in a customs union.

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Chief Reporter - @RichG_star

Chief Reporter for the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton.

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