BRITAIN should retain access to the single market when negotiating its exit from the European Union, according Newbury MP Richard Benyon.
Mr Benyon said he believes West Berkshire businesses would be negatively impacted if free trade with other EU countries is restricted.
The calls come following this week’s Conservative Party conference where Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed she will trigger Britain’s exit from the European Union by the end of March 2017.
The PM unveiled a tough stance on EU withdrawal with the focus on tighter controls on immigration, which will most likely come at the expense of full access to the European single market.
Following the announcement of what has become known as a “Hard Brexit”, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate in Newbury and West Berkshire Judith Bunting said she feared for small and medium-sized enterprises in the area.
She claimed: “Richard Benyon and his Conservatives have lost the right to call themselves the party of business and employment.
“The Liberal Democrats are the only free market, free trade, pro-business party now.
“We are the only party that is sticking up for employment in Great Britain.
“I fear for small and medium-sized enterprises in our area.
“Many do not trade with Europe themselves, but almost all of them depend on supply chains that deal directly with the EU.”
However, speaking to the Newbury Weekly News, Mr Benyon, who threw his weight behind the failed Remain campaign, said: “Everybody is fascinated by the politics of it all, but I’m more interested in the impact of businesses and those they impact in West Berkshire.
“The best thing for them would be to remain part of the single market, or at least the customs union, so they can continue to trade freely with the world’s largest market.”
The Prime Minister also announced plans for her Great Repeal Bill, which will instantly annul the 1972 European Communities Act, giving Parliament the power to scrap elements of EU legislation.
Mr Benyon added: “I don’t know what this Great Repeal Bill will contain, but there are measures that are important in European Law, such as protection of the environment and protection of workers’ rights.
“I will be keeping a close eye on anything that comes before Parliament to make sure that anything that affects West Berkshire businesses is looked at properly.”
Meanwhile, local entrepreneur Tony Harris co-hosted a reception for business leaders at the recent Liberal Democrat conference urging businesses to keep pressuring the Government to ensure they get what they need from the final Brexit deal following negotiations with the EU.
Mr Harris, a Newbury resident and treasurer of Newbury and West Berkshire Liberal Democrats, said: “I have done business in the EU, both before and after the single market.
“Before the single market, moving any kind of goods around the EU was extremely difficult.
“I am horrified that we are now returning to those days.”