Dale Edwards for Western Daily Press, June 2017

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Western Daily Press column, June 2017

Dale Edwards, Chief Executive of Somerset Chamber of Commerce


I did not imagine, nor did many of the political commentators, that we would be in the position of having a hung parliament following the recent General Election. If polling day had been moved back by a week, whether the Conservatives would have had enough MPs to form a minority government may well have been in doubt, with momentum seeming to be with the Labour party and a number of the Conservative seats won only by a small number of voters.

Whichever way people voted, one thing that is clear in my mind is that we will have a much softer Brexit now and the government will have to listen more to business, with growing evidence that the business community wants to remain in the single market and customs union.

I believe it is good news for the business community that Greg Clark, who has been re-elected as an MP, has kept his position of Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. He has always struck me as a great listener whenever I have met him or heard him speak. Through Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), the Chamber network has a significant opportunity to influence government opinion via Adam’s weekly briefings with Greg.

On a more local level, I have been in communication with all of the re-elected Somerset MPs and will be looking to arrange meetings with each of them in the coming weeks to ensure that the business case is heard. I am pleased to report that a couple of meetings have already been arranged.

Whilst much of the election campaign was fought on Brexit, this process is going to last for nearly two years, with a potential transition period after that. For many in business, two years can be a very long time, as I have personally witnessed during my tenure at Somerset Chamber. What I and many others want is for the government to focus on things closer to home. Priorities such as improved infrastructure, both physical and technological; reform of the outdated business rates system; a delay to the rollout of making the reporting of tax digital; and a focus on promoting vocational and in-work training to help address the increasing skills and labour shortages.

There have already been consequences following the decision to leave the EU, including a falling pound, inflationary pressures resulting in higher prices and a squeezing of disposable income. Uncertainty and a degree of volatility is fast becoming the new norm. I suspect this will last for an extended period of time so we need to ensure that business and individual confidence is not dented as a consequence, instead focusing on activities to ensure British businesses remain competitive in the global marketplace.


 

Category: Chamber News

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