Article 50 – Business leaders react to Brexit trigger

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Theresa May has signed the letter that will formally begin the UK’s departure from the European Union.

It follows June’s referendum which resulted in a vote to leave the EU.

Giving official notice under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the letter will be delivered to European Council president Donald Tusk later.

In a statement in the Commons, the prime minister will then tell MPs this marks “the moment for the country to come together”.

Ben Burston, JLL, comments on the impact Brexit will have on our currency: “For many long-term investors, sterling depreciation provides an added fillip to the investment case, based on their perception that it will appreciate once there is more clarity around Brexit and its economic implications, but it is not a case of one-size-fits-all.

“Private investors have responded to the depreciation more than institutions and global asset managers, and as a result they have become a more important driver of market sentiment and pricing. Despite the triggering of Article 50, as 2017 progresses we expect global funds and institutions to return their focus to the UK, in response to relatively attractive pricing and as more evidence of occupational market resilience comes to light.”

Speaking on Brexit’s effect on the property sector, David Westgate, Chief Executive of Andrews Property Group, says Brexit is irrelevant to the domestic housing market: “Quite simply, there is no direct reason why it should have any impact on either property prices or where people chose to live.

“Whilst some will argue that change leads to uncertainty and that, in turn, uncertainty affects confidence in the market, we should hold on to what we know and that is simply that the key driver of the housing market is demand, and that is extremely high at the moment.”

Andrew Perkins, EY’s senior partner in the South West, comments: “Talking to businesses in the South West, a strong early signal in the negotiations that both sides are committed to an orderly and phased-in Brexit deal, would go some way to provide reassurances. Other items on the agenda include the lightest possible customs border to limit disruption to trade, ability to recruit staff and a stable regulatory system between the UK and EU.”

 Jay Risbridger, The Green Stationery Co, says: “Extra costs added by carriers in Europe for clearing documentation outside the single market and customs union would make supplying EU customers uncompetitive and we would lose most of our business.

“If the UK wishes to restrict workers coming to this country, not abide by regulations arbitrated by the ECJ and refuses to contribute to development funds like all other EU countries then we can expect, restrictions on UK workers in the EU, regulatory barriers and tariffs to trade with EU countries in response.”

Dave Blackham, Esprit Film and Television Ltd, outlines the likely implications leaving the EU will have on his business: “Increased costs, decreased contracts, huge adverse exchange rate issues. Also issues with exporting and standards, additional paperwork carnets etc for kit movement and freedom of movement to work in EU.

“We are seriously looking at moving to an EU based country for all or part of the business. Ireland or Scotland if Scotland leaves the union and becomes part of the EU. If not France or Netherlands.

“We are very uncertain about the prospects of importing goods from USA and Asia to distribute to the UK and EU if we aren’t a member of single market so all plans are on hold.”

An MD of a Bristol food exporter says Brexit will sound the ‘death knell’ for his business, which is 100% export to Europe. He comments: “I was in the export business before the Single Market and the Customs paperwork was burdensome. On regulatory issues, I think the UK will retain much of the EU legislation, at least in the early years, so I don’t foresee an immediate change.

“No decisions have been made yet but as I work on my own and am approaching retirement age I am considering retiring once withdrawal from the EU takes effect. Prior to Brexit, I had thought I would continue with the business for several more years.”

Ben Biscoe, Fairyglass Ltd, sees opportunities in Brexit for his business, but is not in favour of leaving: “I believe that leaving the customs union is a huge mistake and one that we won’t see the effects of for several years, by which time it will be too late to do anything about it.

“We’ve been concentrating on our export market for a couple of years now but I think that most of the work we’ve done will go to waste. Our customers in Europe can purchase as easily from our competitors in Europe and the introduction of a tariff system, even with zero tariff payment (just paperwork) means it’s far less attractive for a retailer to purchase from a UK source unless our pricing is much more competitive. We can’t lower our prices more, as we’re hit in the UK with more regulatory costs, higher business rates, and far higher import costs.”

Tim Lincoln, Practice Leader, Grant Thornton South West: “Businesses in the South West will welcome this as starting to provide some further clarity on the way forward. There is one additional matter that our clients want government to address now: they want them to give a guarantee that EU citizens currently working in the UK will have a right to remain.

“This is creating huge uncertainty for people and the organisations that employ them. From financial services to farms; from care homes to construction. This is impacting on key parts of the economy already, not least most of our key public services, and we would call for a unilateral announcement by the Government to secure their position to remain, which will also set a positive tone for more collaborative discussions with the EU.”

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