“To Westminster we say: We are frustrated. We are angry. You have let British business down.” Those are the words of Director General of British Chamber of Commerce Adam Marshall in his speech at their annual conference in London.
He was speaking about how businesses feel about the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. The UK was due to leave the EU on March 29, however last week a postponement was agreed. The current leave date is 12 April.
The impassioned speech given by the Director General highlights the negative impacts caused by Brexit to Chamber member businesses.
“The Chamber members want their voices heard. And what they are telling us, over and over again, is that they do not want a messy and disorderly exit from the European Union.”Adam Marshall
“The UK is not ready for abrupt change,” Marshall said at the conference in QEII Conference Centre, across the road from Parliament. “Three years is long enough, and I am proud that most businesses have remained resilient and resolute.
“But the chamber members want their voices heard. And what they are telling us, over and over again, is that they do not want a messy and disorderly exit from the European Union.”
The speech follows an unprecedented move by MPs to seize control of the Brexit process. However, none of the eight Brexit options proposed by the MPs had secured a clear backing to be passed and implemented.
Statistics released by the Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce last year reveal that 47% of firms in the West Midlands believe the UK should aim to stay in both the Single Market and the Customs Union, while 43% of businesses support a Brexit transition period of three years. 308,000 EU citizens live in the West Midlands, 91,000 of which live in Birmingham.
“They could choose to vote for the withdrawal agreement negotiated by the government over the past two years or seek a longer extension to the Article 50 process or revoke it completely,” Marshall explained. “All of these options are difficult and are controversial, with varying levels of support both within our business communities and with the public at large.
“I want to underline that in raising these choices, we are absolutely not endorsing any one of them but making it clear they [MPs] need to start making tough decisions, however personally or politically difficult they might be.”
The Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce (GBCC) had also commented on the impact of Brexit in its latest quarterly report (PDF). It says the political inaction over the process has had a damaging impact on firms in Greater Birmingham. The report shows that domestic sales for manufacturers fell dramatically with only 39 per cent reporting increased sales, a drop of 10 per cent on the previous quarter. Advance orders fared worse with 29 per cent showing an increase against 41 per cent in the same quarter last year.
Paul Faulkner, the CEO of the GBCC, said: “For the past two years, a sense of chaos and turmoil has defined political activity at Westminster. This has created the impression that very few politicians are capable of putting aside party allegiances and working together in the national interest to tackle the most crucial negotiation this country has witnessed in over a generation.”