19 Oct 2017
Earlier this month, Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce delivered his keynote speech at the BCC International Trade Summit at The Vox in Birmingham.
He praised Britain’s international reputation for trade but said that it needed to ‘wake up’ and outlined three key areas where he felt the UK needed ” to get on the front foot.”
A Business Friendly Brexit
Dr Marshall argued that ministers need to “wake up and put in place the conditions and the environment” that will cement Britain’s reputation as a great global trading nation. He said: “Great global trading nations need great foundations. Those that succeed have leaders that demonstrate that they are backing businesses to the hilt.”
He criticised the government’s pace on Brexit negotiations and suggested that UK business success after leaving the European Union, would rest on the quality of the provisions made for trade and investment before the time comes.
He said: “Pragmatic negotiations on a transition period and our future trade arrangements is exactly what would help both UK and EU27 businesses plan and trade with greater confidence. Chamber Member firms are clear that they want a deal with the EU as a top priority, and only 2% back the ‘no deal’ option.”
Backing British Business
The second priority area highlighted was creating a great environment for business growth at home. He said: “Even if we got the best possible Brexit deal, it wouldn’t be worth the paper it’s written on if we don’t have the right conditions for businesses to grow and thrive in the UK.”
He was vocal about policy decisions taken by the Government, that he feels make it harder for trading businesses to grow, especially during this crucial period before Brexit.
In order to combat this, he suggested that: “A major pre-Brexit investment allowance, plus an expansion to include more training and premises-related expenses, should be announced immediately. That would provide a powerful signal to both British and overseas investors: We believe in you, we want you here, and we want to be the best place to do business in Europe.”
The BCC has long been vocal over its concerns about the rising upfront cost of doing business in the UK and in this speech Adam Marshall reiterated the importance of reducing those costs to allow growth. He demanded “a pledge from ministers to create no new additional costs for UK business through the Brexit transition.”
Finally Dr Marshall addressed the impact of the falling value of sterling on international trade explaining that, while it initially attracted positive comment from industry experts who said it would improve trade conditions, “it is our considered view that lower sterling, overall, has likely done more harm than good in the short to medium term.”
“The short-termism and constant churn that have characterised the Department for International Trade and its predecessors over the past decade must come to an end. A simple, disciplined, long-term approach to supporting exports and investment that is understood and valued by business is sorely needed. Leadership must come from the very top, with trade missions at the heart of every Cabinet minister’s job description.”