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Norfolk Business Awards 2019

Norfolk business leaders demand a second Brexit referendum

PUBLISHED: 15:44 05 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:44 05 March 2019

72 small business owners from across Norfolk have called on Theresa May to back a People's Vote to break the Brexit stalemate
Photo: PA

72 small business owners from across Norfolk have called on Theresa May to back a People's Vote to break the Brexit stalemate Photo: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

Small businesses across Norfolk have called for a second Brexit referendum.

Lister Noble of Farm Systems, in Harleston, is backing a second referendumLister Noble of Farm Systems, in Harleston, is backing a second referendum

More than 70 owners from across the region have written to their MPs asking for the Brexit impasse to be broken with another public ballot.

Theresa May faces a series of crunch votes in parliament in the coming weeks that will decide whether her plan is viable.

The Labour Party has now said it will back a second referendum but it is believed there is not a majority for a so-called People’s Vote in the House of Commons.

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Nicholas Mobbs of the Imperial Hotel in Great Yarmouth has called on the government to back a People's VoteNicholas Mobbs of the Imperial Hotel in Great Yarmouth has called on the government to back a People's Vote

In total 72 Norfolk businesses joined other small business across the UK to call for a new vote.

Nicholas Mobbs’ grandparents opened the Great Yarmouth Imperial Hotel in 1933 – today he runs the business and employs 50 staff.

He said: “Brexit has already had an impact, because we used to have a large labour pool to recruit from and now we are struggling to find people to come and work for us.

“Additionally, right now – as no-one knows what will happen after March 29 – we don’t know what we will be able to feed our guests, as trade issues might slow transit of foodstuffs like lettuces.

“And nobody has any answers. It’s all very well for politicians to say that with the drop in sterling we’ll have more tourism business, but what good is that if there’s no one to serve the guests and nothing to feed them?

“The same thing is happening here in Great Yarmouth in the hospital and care businesses – they are understaffed and unable to recruit.

“I support a People’s Vote because in 2016 I don’t think it was a vote against Europe, rather against domestic issues – 72pc of people in Great Yarmouth voted to leave, and I don’t think they understood the implications. The people who Brexit will affect the most are those that can least afford it.”

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Lister Noble founded Farm Systems 20 years ago. From his base in Harleston, he advises farms and universities on environmentally friendly farming systems, that don’t reduce crops or farmers’ incomes.

“From trade barriers to losing freedom of movement, we don’t even know the extent of the risks,” he said. “Many farms rely on workers from inside and outside the EU. Already last year, some UK farms were struggling to grow and harvest their vegetable and flower crops. The migrant worker numbers have already dwindled due to a combination of EU people feeling unwelcome and the value of the pound against the euro decreasing. “Daffodils, lettuces and strawberries are just some examples of crops that went to waste. Farmers lost that income, and anyone who is reliant on one crop, such as an orchard, will be in a dire situation.

“In the two years since the vote, the demographic has changed, and the younger people, who predominantly would have voted ‘remain’ are now of a voting age. Surely it is more democratic to let people who will have to live with the consequences, have a final say?”

Bridget Greenwood has been director of AE In A Box since 2014. Based in Sheringham, the company sells software to help small businesses navigate auto enrolment compliance and procedures.

She added: “I serve the small and new business market. These types of businesses are putting plans on hold until there is clarity in what Britain and its ability to trade with others might look like, and that pauses momentum. That has a trickle-down effect on my business.

“But the issues are wider than just business.

“My 14-year-old son is upset that a vote about his future was taken out of his hands, and he doesn’t agree with it. I have lived abroad, in Germany, Republic of Ireland and Hong Kong, and know how enriching it is to experience different cultures.

“He is now being asked to make decisions about his exams and career. It’s difficult enough at this age, technology will impact so heavily on his future and now 27 markets and countries with rich experiences are being taken away. I’d like my son to face more opportunities not less.”

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