Mayday for Tories as Corbyn defies the Murdoch machine – what do business leaders make of Election?

Economy & Politics | Latest News | South West
Theresa May

Businesses and people from across the South West are reacting to the shock results of last night’s General Election and are left wondering the impact a hung parliament will have on them as well as how the key issues, such a Brexit, will be resolved.

Business Leader Magazine has collected the thoughts of the South West’s most prominent business minds with their views.

Nick Sturge, South West Regional Chairman for the Institute of Directors said: “We expected this election to put aside any uncertainty, but it has delivered more, and that is bad news for the country. We need party politics to be set aside and have strong and visionary leadership.  Brexit is of course a key issue but not the only one on the table.

“We now face the significant possibility of both another general election and also at least one leadership election. So, neither will we be rid of party politicking or have much leadership.

“The governing parties and Prime Minister need to work closely with business of all sizes to understand where it stands on key areas such as transport, energy and broadband infrastructure, ensuring our education system is ready for the changing face of work and looking at any tax system reforms needed to boost our long-term competitiveness.

“The South West has a reputation for entrepreneurialism and is strong in sectors such as digital, tech and creative industries. Our start-ups need the support to scale up if we are going to remain competitive.”

Mark Dampier, Head of Investment Research at Hargreaves Lansdown said: “This is very different to the Brexit vote of last year. While the result is a surprise and may lead to another election later this year – market reaction has generally been subdued so far because the Tory government will remain in power but a hard Brexit now looks less likely.

“There will be no dramatic changes in domestic policy immediately as there would have been under Labour had they got in. Therefore, I see no need to make any rash investment decisions, given the range of possible outcomes over the next few weeks. Investors should sit tight or even buy if the opportunity arises.”

“Once a government is in place I expect the dust to settle fairly quickly. There will be a dawning realisation that everything has changed and nothing has changed. For the vast majority of UK companies it will be a case of “business as usual” on Monday. Many companies have been around for decades and seen governments of both colours come and go.”

David Westgate, Group Chief Executive at Andrews Property Group, said: “Whilst the fact that no one party in Parliament has an overall majority could be viewed as a bad thing which will see uncertainty continue, the fact that there’ll be more cross-party debate should be welcomed by those in the property sector.

“Housing should be above politics and a hung Parliament could see more de-politicised debate take place.  This should be welcomed.”

Gordon Isgrove, Regional Senior Director at GVA in Bristol comments: “Whilst today’s result may not be the outcome the markets had expected, we urge all parties to act as a unified front to secure the best deal for the UK in exiting the EU and provide much needed stability and clarity for the markets and confidence for UK and overseas investors.

“In the South West we need to continue to plan for growth and to alleviate our housing shortage. All parties recognise the housing problem in the region and we need them to work together to resolve and not consistently and systematically object to proposals in their constituencies.”

Somerset Chamber Chairman Greg Saunders said: “This is the outcome we least wanted or needed, with a hung parliament continuing the uncertainty that this country has faced over recent years. What everyone needs now, particularly the business community, is stability and clarity.

“There are substantial challenges facing the UK, not least the impending Brexit negotiations, and the politicians must quickly provide clarity on their direction and purpose. The economy needs to move back up the agenda, with improvements to our road, rail and broadband infrastructure – particularly here in Somerset and the South West – being fundamental to future business growth.”

Managing Director for Business West Phil Smith said: “The British voting public is starting to create a proud record of confounding expectations. Theresa May appears to have failed to secure a parliamentary majority, and with it, UK businesses now face yet another period of prolonged economic uncertainty.

“As well as surprise, businesses in the West will no doubt feel frustrated by the unnecessary and self-inflicted political risk created by this election and previous referenda as they strive to compete both nationally and internationally.

“It is unclear who the Prime Minister will be; whether a stable government can be formed and whether we need to prepare for yet another election. Worse than this, it is now eleven days until the start of the Brexit negotiations.”

Tim Lincoln, Practice Leader at Grant Thornton South West said: “Whilst a hung parliament can create uncertainty, it is also an opportunity for politicians and wider stakeholders to reach out and agree on a set of goals that provide national clarity.

“It is in the national interest for politicians to put aside differences and agree some common national principles for addressing the big challenges we as a country face. We know from our discussions that businesses and other dynamic organisations in the South West have a huge appetite for collaboration with each other and government to work together to shape a vibrant economy.”

Simon Peacock, JLL’s lead director for the South West & Wales said: “The UK has faced political uncertainty in very recent history and, notwithstanding the dramas that immediately followed the Brexit vote, the UK economy and property market remained very resilient.

“The result suggests that the hard Brexit that many were assuming would now definitely occur looks somewhat less likely. That could be a longer-term positive for the UK market.”

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