Chambers of Commerce reaction to Queen’s Speech

Liz Maher, president of the South and Mid Wales Chambers of Commerce. (C) Huw John, Cardiff.

Commenting on the Queen’s Speech, Liz Maher, president of the South and Mid Wales Chambers of Commerce, said:

“The business community will welcome the commitment from the government to build the widest possible consensus around Brexit. While Brexit isn’t the top immediate priority for many businesses, firms of every size and shape want to avoid turbulence and confusion during the transition. The government’s proposed bills on trade, customs and immigration must minimise adjustment costs and maximise opportunities. Achieving this will require continuous and constructive engagement with business communities, and we will be working to ensure that the Welsh business voice is heard.

“Importantly, many of the real, practical priorities for businesses can be delivered without new primary legislation. I welcome today’s commitment to attract more investment for infrastructure and Wales must get its fair share of this spending. We need to see the government committing to the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon and ensuring that electrification of the south Wales rail network is delivered.

“The government must cut back on the stifling up-front costs that deter investment and risk-taking, and work with the Welsh Government as it presses ahead with a new industrial strategy, so that it helps Wales and Welsh businesses achieve their full potential. This is an important moment for ministers to show that they are doing their day job, and delivering a stronger environment for growth here at home.

“The Welsh business community wants to see a workable government going about its day job, and clear signals that the economy is once again front and centre in UK political life. Consensus and a strong partnership between government and business will be critical at a time of significant change.”

On the Customs Bill:

“The South and Mid Wales Chambers of Commerce facilitate tens of millions of pounds worth of international trade every year. We stand ready to work with the government to develop a UK customs system that supports free-flowing trade between firms and their customers and suppliers around the world. It is crucial that business and government work together, as well, to ensure that a new UK customs code underpins seamless trade between the UK and the continent in the years to come.”

On Immigration Bill:

“The needs of the economy must be at the heart of this once-in-a-generation overhaul of the UK’s immigration system. While businesses accept the need for controls over migration flows, they want clear assurances that they will be able to recruit from overseas to fill vacancies when they are unable to find or train suitable candidates here at home.

“After Brexit, they will also want to see a flexible system for the movement of labour and skills between the UK and the EU that enjoys clear public support. This is also a major opportunity to simplify the Home Office’s bureaucratic processes, which impose heavy costs and great uncertainty on businesses and individuals alike.”

On the Trade Bill:

“Safeguarding and retaining the favourable terms of trade that UK businesses have enjoyed under EU free trade agreements negotiated by the EU over the past four decades must be a top priority for ministers as the UK develops its own trade policy. The firms we represent say that confirming existing levels of market access is a bigger immediate priority than launching new free trade negotiations with new countries and markets around the world. They also need ground-level trade promotion and support to take advantage of the opportunities that new trade agreements may create in future.”

On the Great Repeal Bill:

“At a time of change, businesses want as much short-term certainty and stability as possible on their regulatory obligations. This bill must deliver continuity and the day-one equivalence that is necessary for businesses to continue to trade seamlessly with customers and suppliers, both in Europe and across the world.”