WEST Berkshire Council’s leader says there is reason to be “cautiously optimistic” about the district’s prospects post-Brexit, despite concerns from his opposite number.
Graham Jones admitted that it was “very difficult as this stage to assess the impact of Brexit on the local economy” but said that West Berkshire was well placed to deal with the challenges ahead.
Mr Jones was responding to a question from the council’s Liberal Democrat leader Lee Dillon, who expressed fears that local traders were “starting to feel the pinch of Brexit”.
At a recent executive meeting, Mr Dillon asked what analysis the council done on the impact of Brexit to the local economy.
Mr Jones replied: “Until things are clearer it is difficult to do a detailed analysis.
“The Organisation for Economic Corporation and Development said in April 2016 it is likely that Brexit will have a negative impact on the local economy.
“There have been many signs since the referendum result that West Berkshire and the UK as a whole will continue to attract investment and to grow.
“The UK continues to enjoy record levels of employment, with the manufacturing industry reporting better than expected growth levels.”
Mr Jones said that the National Association of Commercial Finance Brokers has seen business mortgages enquiries increase since the referendum from 75 per cent to 132 per cent.
He said: “For that reason and a degree of others it is right to be cautiously optimistic about the district’s prospects post-Brexit, but much will depend on the detail of whichever deal is struck.
“As a council, we are working with local businesses on an individual basis, which we have always done.
“Key challenges so far identified include difficulties recruiting from the EU due to the uncertainty and the higher cost of importing goods and materials from the EU.
“As we have always done, we will represent the views of these businesses to national government and do all we can to ensure West Berkshire continues to punch above its weight.”
Mr Dillon replied: “Sales figures were down nearly a per cent between August and September. So despite mortgage enquiries being up, local traders are starting to feel pinch of Brexit through a reduction in sales.”