East firms braced for Brexit turmoil

Challs is starting to stockpile raw materials and looking at stockpiling products to prevent at bord

Challs is starting to stockpile raw materials and looking at stockpiling products to prevent at borders if Britain crashes out of the European Union Picture: ALEX FAIRFULL

Businesses across East Anglia are bracing themselves for a rollercoaster ride as prime minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal unravels.

There is growing anger and frustration among businesses across the region at the political stalemate which has plunged them into a state of deep uncertainty, with considerable ire directed at politicians.

A number are stockpiling raw materials and goods to ensure their activities can continue with as few hold-ups as possible - but at a cost.

Suffolk Chamber said firms were intensely frustrated at yet another delay following a delay in Parliament’s ‘meaningful vote’ on Brexit.

“Chamber members and the wider business community are looking on with deep concern at the ongoing saga being played out in front of us, and express worry that a number of our politicians, it appears, are acting in their own interest, with the potential of little regard for the people, communities and business leaders whose livelihoods depend on the success of a solid business and trading environment here in Suffolk,” it said.

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The political machinations

were having an impact on real-world business decisions, including investment for growth, it warned.

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David Burch, director of policy at Essex Chambers, said the impasse was hitting confidence and urged politicians to resolve things. “Businesses really cannot understand what is going on at Westminster with the Government’s Brexit proposals. Businesses that we speak to just want to get the issue resolved as soon as possible and not see further delays imposed to an already tight timetable,” he said.

Graham Burchell, boss at Hadleigh-based drain products maker Challs, said his business was stockpiling raw materials and looking at stockpiling its products in Ireland at the end of January and into February ahead of the March 29 EU exit date in order to prevent chaos ensuing at the border. “A lot of businesses are stockpiling now which is also pushing prices up,” he said. “It’s not the storage area, it’s the value of the stock - we are probably holding another £0.25m worth of stock which we wouldn’t otherwise.”

He added: “It’s just a complete mess and there’s so much in-fighting. Most people don’t love politicians, but they’ve gone down in everyone’s estimation.”

Stowmarket malt firm Muntons said it had put in place contingency plans to ensure it can cope with any Brexit outcome.

Marketing manager Andy Janes, said: “Reaching an agreement that suits all parties involved in the Brexit negotiations was inevitably going to be a political challenge. However, we have to question whether in-fighting amongst the various political parties is good for the country. The business world is affected badly during these periods of uncertainty, and therefore a clear and definitive outcome would be a welcome and refreshing change, whatever this turns out to be.”

Chris Newenham, joint boss at Tiptree-based jam makers Wilkin & Son, said: “Business needs certainty, and the sooner the issues are resolved the better it will be for all of us.”

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