(l-r) Alan Durham, Martyne Manning & Dave Ayton-Hill
Business leaders in Coventry and Warwickshire have vowed to ‘make Brexit work’ – but will still hold the government to account on many of the fears firms have as the UK leaves the EU.
The Coventry and launched a Brexit Club earlier this year and unveiled a manifesto for exiting the EU at a breakfast with its corporate members at its Business & Trade Expo.
Alan Durham, a senior figure at the chamber for many years, is leading the organisation’s work on Brexit and he said business was being practical rather than political in its demands to government.
He said: “We will leave the political debates to others – we have no interest in re-running the referendum or trying to change the process but business must continue to make representations to ministers on Brexit.
“Unlike the government, we were prepared for Brexit from day one – we launched a helpline for companies on June 24 and have set about looking into the practicalities of what leaving the EU will mean.
“We are listening to business – from manufacturing, from logistics, from tourism, from universities and from a range of other sectors. They are looking for answers to a range of questions.
“As a chamber, through our work with the British Chambers of Commerce, we are here to put those questions to minister and to help Whitehall understand what the issues are.
“Those questions fall into five key topics – trade, labour, EU funding, regulation & taxation and customs.
“Will there still be free and frictionless trade with the EU once Brexit has happened? Will a hotelier still be free to bring in staff from the EU or risk not being able to fill vacancies?
"These are the very practical questions that we will continue to ask government and continue to press home as they negotiate our exit.”
Dave Ayton-Hill, who heads Warwickshire County Council’s economic development team – which has partnered with the chamber on its Quarterly Economic Survey, also presented at the event.
He said there had been some positive signs since the referendum but admitted that the future was still uncertain.
He said: “None of us know what the deal is going to look like and, therefore, we cannot be certain about the future.
“However, we do know that the decision to leave the EU has caused the pound to be devalued and has, therefore, caused inflationary pressures which make imports, energy and food more expensive.
“However, in the short term, it is good news for exporters because it makes our goods and services more competitive overseas.
“A major area of concern leading up to the referendum was whether it would put off foreign investment into the UK, including this region, but we have seen no sign of that yet.
"In fact, we are still seeing significant interest and enquiries to our inward investment team.
“It will remain a concern until we know what the deal is but, at this stage, it is holding up very well.”