Westminster’s Brexit ‘bubble’ already damaging Norfolk business as expansion plans and training halted

PUBLISHED: 16:19 16 January 2019 | UPDATED: 08:22 17 January 2019

People watch Prime Minister Theresa May speak on a large screen, outside the Houses of Parliament, London, ahead of the House of Commons vote on the Prime Minister's Brexit deal.

People watch Prime Minister Theresa May speak on a large screen, outside the Houses of Parliament, London, ahead of the House of Commons vote on the Prime Minister's Brexit deal.

PA Wire/PA Images

Businesses are already suffering under the threat of Brexit, with company owners reporting funding being pulled and expansion plans being put on hold.

Tom Whiskin, owner and founder of ASAMS, Picture: AsamsTom Whiskin, owner and founder of ASAMS, Picture: Asams

And with Theresa May’s first Brexit deal being overwhelmingly rejected by parliament yesterday and a vote of no confidence in the government being lodged, it seems that the in-fighting at Westminster is far from over.

Tom Whiskin is the co-owner and founder of Asams, a metals testing labratory based in Great Yarmouth, who says that the “bubble” at Westminster is already having a major impact on his business.

The company, which employs seven members of staff and has a turnover of around three quarters of a million, has delayed the purchase of an £100,000 chemical testing machine for fear that it will increase in price between its order and its delivery.

“We’ve been planning to buy this piece of equipment for about six months to a year, and would allow us to expand because we could approach clients with a new service,” Mr Whiskin said.

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“We won’t be able to do that now because we won’t have the full package. It’s an unknown how much of an impact that will have,” Mr Whiskin, who began the company 30 years ago, said.

The business had also planned to send three members of staff on a forklift driving course, which was cancelled at the last minute when the EU funding was pulled.

“That’s something we’ll have to pay for instead,” Mr Whiskin said. “We don’t know how much it will set us back, but Brexit is already affecting our expansion and workforce training.”

Mr Whiskin added that the “bubble” of parliament seemed to be somewhat unaware of the impact negotiations were having on industry. “We can deal with a no deal, because if there are going to be any negative ramifications at least we can plan for that,” he said.

“What we can’t deal with is the uncertainty. Emotion doesn’t come into it. It doesn’t matter whether you voted leave or remain, business owners need answers to be able to make pragmatic business decisions.”

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His sentiment was echoed by Ben Underwood, east regional director of the Country Land and Business Association, who said: “With Brexit less than three months away we need urgent clarity from the Prime Minister on her next steps and how she plans to deliver a Brexit which provides the opportunities that leaving the EU presents, whilst ensuring no harm to farming, the rural economy and communities across the countryside. This must include the free and frictionless trade between the UK and EU, on which many rural businesses depend.”

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