Labour and trade fears for East Anglian firms as PM prepares to trigger Article 50

Prime Minister Theresa outside 10 Downing Street, London.
Photo: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

Prime Minister Theresa outside 10 Downing Street, London. Photo: Philip Toscano/PA Wire - Credit: PA

With Prime Minister Theresa May due to trigger Article 50 today, East Anglian business leaders have outlined their priorities for the two-year negotiation over the UK’s exit from the EU.

John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce

John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce - Credit: Archant

Among their major concerns are continued access to a supply of labour, the potential threat to free trade and maintaining funding levels.

John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: “The single most important imperative is for the British Government to secure an EU trade deal on the best terms possible.

“The other side of that coin is, of course, for the Government to press on and sign free trade agreements in high growth and key trade markets, including the USA.”

Mr Dugmore also said the chamber was lobbying for the residency rights of EU workers in the UK to be clarified as soon as possible, a call echoed by Matt Moss, finance director at Stowmarket-based concrete products manufacturer Poundfield and chairman of Bury St Edmunds Chamber of Commerce.

Matt Moss of Stowmarket-based Poundfield

Matt Moss of Stowmarket-based Poundfield - Credit: Archant

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“As we have a number of EU nationals in our workforce we would like their status to be clarified quickly, but there is also the question of future recruitment,” he said. “We have low unemployment in the East and finding labour is a challenge.”

New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) echoed the call for free trade agreements, migrant workers availability and clarification over funding.

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“The European Regional Development Fund allows the LEP to offer business support through the New Anglia Growth Hub, funding through the Micro Grants Scheme and deliver our start-up programmes through our partners Nwes and Menta, enabling more people to start up their own businesses,” said a LEP spokesman.

“We also need as good a free trade deal as possible. With the UK’s biggest container port in Felixstowe it’s crucial our levels of trade worldwide don’t diminish and even expand.”

And he added: “We also need a sustainable model allowing for the availability of migrant workers, not just in construction, agriculture and food and drink, but also in research posts at our world-renowned universities.”

For more views on the priorities for business, turn to pages six and seven of today’s Business supplement.

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