Tue, 21 Feb 2017
TWO thirds of West Berkshire’s small businesses have said they are concerned about the negative impact Brexit will have on their trade, according to a recent survey.
The district’s businesses revealed their fears in the Liberal Democrat West Berkshire Business Brexit Survey – part of a national consultation exercise for small businesses, which ran between October and December.
The results of the local survey show 66 per cent of respondents expect Brexit to be bad for their business.
Forty-eight per cent of businesses said they imported products or materials from Europe, while 27 per cent export goods to the EU.
West Berkshire’s Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Judith Bunting said the results made worrying reading.
She said: “We set up the consultation in West Berkshire last year to make sure the views of our local traders and employers are properly represented.
“The news is that two thirds of local traders and service providers who took part in the survey think their business is going to be hurt when we leave the EU and the single market.
“Many report that their costs have gone up already and that they have no choice but to pass these on to their customers through increased prices.”
Responding in the survey, the director of Rivar Sand and Gravel in Thatcham, Jon Gage, (pictured with Ms Bunting) said: “After the referendum result we spent six months absorbing cost increases.
"Since January we have had no choice but to pass these increases on to our customers.”
The president of Open Studios, West Berkshire and Hampshire, Johannes von Stumm, who was responsible for the artwork on the Robin Hood roundabout, said: “My survival as a sculptor is in great danger if customs declarations and tariffs are introduced.
“Because of the falling pound, the cost of materials I import has already risen dramatically.”
The results of the survey are being used to draw up a list of negotiating requirements, which the Liberal Democrats will call on the Government to achieve.
The findings echo those of another survey, the Thames Valley Business Barometer, in which, out of more than 150 businesses surveyed, only two per cent said they had no concerns at all following the referendum.
The need for clarity about the rules of trading with EU countries (58 per cent) and the investment by Government in local infrastructure (52 per cent) came out as the two top concerns.
Ms Bunting said her party believes that Britain is better off in Europe, but the immediate priority was to make sure small local businesses do not pay the price of a rushed withdrawal.
She said: “Many small and medium enterprises do not trade with Europe directly, but almost all depend on a supply chain that in turn deals with the EU.
“We must stand up for small business and make sure Theresa May does not forget the importance of local trade as the UK lurches towards its uncertain future.”