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East Anglia Future 50

Rural businesses highlight key concerns at Royal Norfolk Show breakfast

PUBLISHED: 10:12 27 June 2018 | UPDATED: 10:15 27 June 2018

Senior partner Justin Ripman on stage at Mills & Reeve's Royal Norfolk Show breakfast. Picture: Mark Shields.

Senior partner Justin Ripman on stage at Mills & Reeve's Royal Norfolk Show breakfast. Picture: Mark Shields.

Archant

Digital connectivity in Norfolk’s rural economy was highlighted as the key concern as nearly 200 business leaders gathered on the first morning of the Royal Norfolk Show.

The event hosted by law firm Mills and Reeve asked guests to vote on a range of issues from Brexit to agricultural productivity.

However, the majority of businesses polled declared themselves in positive mood about the future of farming in the UK.

On rural connectivity, broadband coverage (54%) was named the most pressing concern, ahead of phone coverage (23%), while roads (16%) and public transport (7%) lagged behind.

The main barrier to the use of technology in farming was deemed to be the cost (34%), ahead of a lack of understanding of what is available (30%), resistance to change (27%) and technology not being readily available (9%).

For farmers, the biggest worry was the reduction in support payments, with nearly half (49%) declaring themselves concerned, while the environment (19%), water availability (21%) and seasonal workforce reduction (10%).

On the topic of the UK’s EU membership, guests came down in favour of Remain by 60% to Leave’s 40% – though only 12.4% of people said they would vote a different way from two years ago.

Mills and Reeve senior partner Justin Ripman said Brexit was still preoccupying businesses above all else, and cautioned politicians against blaming business.

“Here we are, two years on, with no clearer idea about the form that Brexit is going to take.

“However, we have been surprised at the way the way the economy has performed since the referendum,” he said, adding that it had helped Mills and Reeve to hit its target of becoming a £100m-turnover firm two years ahead of schedule.

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