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One year before Brexit - businesses and farmers still unclear about future, say leaders

PUBLISHED: 08:49 29 March 2018 | UPDATED: 12:05 29 March 2018

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Dugmore

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Dugmore

With one year to go before the UK is due to leave the European Union, businesses and farmers from the region remain unclear about the landscape in which they will be operating post-Brexit.

David Burch, director of policy at Essex Chambers of CommerceDavid Burch, director of policy at Essex Chambers of Commerce

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce chief executive, John Dugmore, said businesses have broadly welcomed the European Council’s endorsement of the transition period, and the progression of talks towards a future EU-UK trading relationship.

He said this means firms can “now continue trading with a degree of confidence until the end of 2020”, as the two sides work through the many practical questions which remain for the longer term.

“However,” he added, “with one year to go until the UK’s formal exit from the EU, negotiators must redouble their efforts to find pragmatic and practical solutions to the many real-world questions firms face all across the UK – from product standards, to VAT, to customs, to immigration – businesses need answers fast.

“The onus is now on the UK government and the European Commission to deliver those answers.”

Across the border, policy director at the Essex Chambers of Commerce, David Burch, said that Brexit was causing “a lot of confusion” among the business community.

“Until the final deal is done, there is no deal, leaving businesses in limbo about what will happen a year from now,” he said.

One area where businesses need more certainty, according to Mr Burch, is on policies relating to migrant workers.

He said; “There are quite a few businesses in Essex that rely on migrants to function and they want to know that they will still able to get access to their workforce not lose them overnight.

Robert Sheasby, East Anglia regional director at the National Farmers' Union.Robert Sheasby, East Anglia regional director at the National Farmers' Union.

“Likewise, people from abroad who are living and working in the UK need to know that they will be able to stay in this country.”

The availability of migrant labour, as well as the nature of any new farming regulations and the need for clarity around trading arrangements in a post-Brexit Britain, are topics exercising farmers in the region, says Robert Sheasby, regional director for the National Farmers Union in East Anglia.

“One year out we don’t have any real view of what these will look like,” he said.

Mr Sheasby said the union was urging farmers to help shape a response to a recent consultation document published by Environment Secretary Michael Gove, which sets out potential strategies for agricultural policy after the country splits from the EU and what will replace the Common Agricultural Policy.

The NFU Brexit team are holding a series of meetings across the region next month to collect views on the subject.

Mr Sheasby said: “It’s vital for farmers, the countryside and the public that we make the right decisions now - decisions that will shape the future of food production and environmental protection outside of the European Union for many years to come.”

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