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'We are not ready': Norfolk business leader goes on attack over Brexit

PUBLISHED: 09:43 25 February 2019 | UPDATED: 13:42 25 February 2019

Chris Sargisson, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce chief executive, says the country needs answers over Brexit. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Chris Sargisson, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce chief executive, says the country needs answers over Brexit. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2018

The Norfolk Chamber of Commerce believes the UK is not ready for a no-deal Brexit and has demanded MPs push the government harder for answers.

The letter was sent to Brandon Lewis, Chloe Smith, Clive Lewis, Elizabeth Truss, George Freeman, Sir Henry Bellingham, Keith Simpson, Norman Lamb and Richard Bacon.

The answers the chamber is seeking include tariffs, aviation, inspections and staff transfers.

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Questions include: “What tariffs will my company need to pay when importing goods to the UK from the EU?” and “Will my business be able to move skilled staff between the UK and EU after March 29, and if so, under what conditions?”

This question was accompanied by a letter written by Chris Sargisson, chief executive of the chamber.

He wrote: “I write today on behalf of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce and the business communities across Norfolk to highlight the critical questions that remain unanswered for business in the unwelcome event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal on March 29.

“To be clear, UK businesses do not want a messy and disorderly exit from the EU. However, given that ‘no-deal’ remains a possibility, firms need clear answers on the terms of trade they would face in that scenario.

“With less than two months to go, businesses still do not have the information they need to plan effectively for the UK leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement and transition period. Many of the most basic questions remain unanswered, and we have set these out in the document attached.

“Norfolk Chamber has been working closely with the British Chambers of Commerce and have campaigned strongly for official guidance - and we have, where possible, welcomed the technical notices, partnership packs and other details of no-deal planning as a result.

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“Yet there are still many areas where businesses have no firm guidance at all. This is especially true in the case of international trade, where the bulk of the questions attached outline the many uncertainties faced by business in this scenario.

“Questions include will existing trade agreements be rolled over or replaced on a bilateral basis in time to prevent the loss of preferences and customs facilitations?

“Many of the unanswered questions reflect fundamental aspects of how companies operate. For instance, the terms of trade agreements can affect pricing decisions, margins and even choice of business location and the geography of supply chains. The absence of clarity and precision has already stifled investment and growth and it is getting worse the closer we get, resulting in unnecessary costs, inability to plan and, increasingly, loss of business as customers look elsewhere.

“It is clear that the UK is not prepared for a ‘no deal’ exit from the EU on March 29. Firms are being asked to prepare for all scenarios but simply aren’t being given the tools to do so.

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“On behalf of Norfolk Chamber and the business community, we ask that you raise this with the Government as a matter of urgency and consider the steps that you can take to avoid no-deal on March 29.”

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