‘Political turbulence’ over Brexit hitting firms, warns Business West, as Parliament to be suspended

August 28, 2019

The boss of the region’s largest business organisation has again slammed Westminster for “playing political chess” while the health of the economy is in the balance.

Phil Smith, pictured, managing director at Business West – which runs the Swindon & Wiltshire Initiative – said firms were paying the price for the failure of a clear Brexit strategy. 

His comments came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson unleashed a fresh political storm by asking the Queen to suspend Parliament for five weeks – meaning little time for MPs to debate Brexit, including a possible no deal, ahead of the UK leaving the EU on October 31.

Mr Smith, who has heavily criticised MPs previously for delaying Brexit and so leaving many firms – particularly exporters to EU countries – in limbo, said: “Businesses feel like Westminster is playing an endless game of political chess, while their futures and the health of the economy hangs in the balance.

“Every move in this game is prompting more questions, not just among businesses here at home but also among their partners around the world.

“Out in the real world, continuing political turbulence is taking a toll on contracts, on investment decisions, and on business confidence. Three years on, the damage continues.”

He said the top priority for businesses and the economy remained the need to avoid a “messy and disorderly” exit from the EU on October 31.

“Despite the noise, none of the events of the last few days has given businesses greater confidence that this will be achieved,” he added.

“Given this, it is essential for government and its agencies to further boost support for businesses through any scenario.

“Once again, businesses will have to try their best to prepare for an unclear future as the political process goes down to the wire.” 

Before the 2016 EU referendum a poll conducted by Business West showed more than twice as many West businesspeople wanted the UK to stay in the EU as leave.

Business West blamed Brexit uncertainty for a major fall in confidence among West of England firms earlier this year.

All measures in its quarterly survey of around 500 firms were in the red, it reported in April. Export sales and orders in particular were hit, plummeting by 24% over the past year, while UK orders were 10% lower year on year.

UK sales during the period were down 7% on the previous quarter and 8% on the previous year.

Business confidence – a reliable a measure of future trading – fell by 6% on the previous quarter and by 16% over the year.


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