East Anglian business leaders demand new PM sorts ‘Brexit mess’

Business leaders in Norfolk and Suffolk have urged Boris Johnson to provide answers and certainty. P

Business leaders in Norfolk and Suffolk have urged Boris Johnson to provide answers and certainty. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

With his predecessor being forced out of Number 10 over her inability to push a Brexit deal through, Mr Johnson will inevitably have to make Britain's departure from the EU his number one priority.

Businesses in Norfolk and Suffolk have been clamouring for clarity on the issue and any potential knock-on effects.

Here, we speak to leaders from various sectors across the region to find out their demands for the new man in Downing Street.

MORE: Cafe serving barista-style coffee and homemade cakes opens on Norfolk BroadMatt Moss, managing director of Thurston's Smart, said: "The first thing Boris Johnson needs to do is bring parliament back together and ensure that the Brexit distraction is delivered swiftly and as positively as possible.

"He can't please everyone's needs, but he must give a clear direction and clarity for business and bring back confidence in the UK for entrepreneurs."

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Mr Moss was echoed by the Norfolk Chambers of Commerce's head of policy, Nova Fairbank.

She said: "Companies need to know, in concrete terms, what Mr Johnson's government will do to avoid a messy, disorderly Brexit on October 31 - which would bring pain to our Norfolk business community and disruption to our ability trade around the world."

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Some industry bosses felt that clarity and order alone were not enough demanding Britain must leave with a deal.

Mark Tyldesley is the group managing director of Stowmarket's Muntons which supplies malt around the world.

For his industry, Mr Tyldesley said export certainty was paramount: "Boris Johnson needs to negotiate a deal with the EU that prevents British business losing millions of pounds in export trade.

"The potential threat in a no-deal scenario where the UK imposes zero import tariffs on EU goods to the UK, coupled with the EU moving to WTO tariffs for UK exports would be a major blow to our export business. It would leave East of England business more vulnerable to European competition."

Callum Coombes, founder of Norwich's lone worker safety app Safepoint, said Mr Johnson should ensure the UK's budding technology sector is protected.

"Safepoint, like many other tech companies in the region, is a digital, cloud-based platform. The ability to easily trade internationally is therefore important to us. Policies that ensure we can straightforwardly trade with North America, Europe, and the wider world, will safeguard the UK's ability to remain a global player in the tech sector.

"A concern faced by businesses in the region is that a number of local support programmes are EU part-funded. Can we be assured that the UK government will commit to funding the continuance, and creation, of these support programmes that have proven vital to UK business communities?"

Looking beyond Brexit, infrastructure is also a key concern.

MORE: Which version of Boris Johnson will Norfolk's nervous businesses get?Philip Turner, founder of Suffolk pub chain the Chesnut Group, said: "Mr Johnson should provide a commitment to the ongoing infrastructure development to maintain momentum of private investment that is supporting business growth in the region."

He added that the former London mayor should also increase the quota for inbound temporary workers, and provide a more efficient process for existing EU nationals to achieve settled status.

However some businesses felt that the only good thing Mr Johnson could do was resign immediately.

Rosie Kacary and her husband Mark co-own the Norfolk Deli in Hunstanton.

Mrs Kacery said: "We're like a load of lemmings being led towards the edge of a cliff. The only thing I would like to see him do is call a general election in the next 24 hours so that the people can pick instead of 160,000 predominantly white, middle-aged, middle-class men.

"There simply is no policy Boris Johnson could announce that I would be able to back. He may say some things that sounds fabulous, but they never come to being. Look at what he's said in the past, a garden bridge in the centre of London and the idea simply vanished and he wanted to build an airport on the Thames estuary which would have cost billions."

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