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East Anglia Future 50

County council lays out its plan to support Norfolk businesses through Brexit

PUBLISHED: 15:10 05 June 2018 | UPDATED: 17:13 05 June 2018

Dr Wendy Thomson, managing director of Norfolk County Council, speak at the Norfolk's Brexit event at the International Aviation Academy Norwich. Picture: Bethany Whymark

Dr Wendy Thomson, managing director of Norfolk County Council, speak at the Norfolk's Brexit event at the International Aviation Academy Norwich. Picture: Bethany Whymark

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Asserting Norfolk’s identity as a county and its economic strengths will be key to post-Brexit success.

This was the message shared by local authority leaders as they gathered with businesses at a world-class training academy in Norwich.

Delegates at the Norfolk’s Brexit event at the International Aviation Academy yesterday heard the county was “not remote” from the EU, with 60% of imports (equivalent to around £6bn) and 50% of its exports coming from the bloc.

Around 9.5% of Norfolk’s workforce are EU nationals, and the amount of migrants travelling to the county has increased every year since 2002, with 6,000 coming in 2017 alone.

In a new report, Getting Norfolk ready for Brexit, launched at the seminar, the council details the extent of the county’s relationship with the EU and explains how it 
will offer support to businesses to develop skills in the workforce and work with partners to convince the government of Norfolk’s importance to the regional and national economy.

Dr Wendy Thomson, managing director of Norfolk County Council, said a “place-based approach” would be critical in ensuring the county’s prosperity on the domestic and international stages.

“Norfolk is underappreciated and one of our jobs is to make sure we highlight its importance,” she said.

“I can see the amazing contribution we are making to the national economy. We have to make sure that we are advocating for our businesses nationally and even internationally.”

Dr Thomson said the 
council needed to understand the concerns of business around trade, labour and regulation in order to know how best to respond in the face of the “many unknowns” of Brexit.

“We need to be prepared for the possible dampening of investment and the expectation that new markets will emerge,” she said.

Keynote speaker Seamus Nevin, head of policy at the Institute of Directors (IoD), said Brexit gave the country an opportunity “to decide the business environment we want to create”.

He said businesses “are not and cannot be prepared for a cliff-edge Brexit”, adding that IoD members “believe a managed Brexit, however it is achieved, would be better for our businesses and the national economy”.

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