Businesses at a Brexit summit in Dorset hailed ‘confidence’ as the vital factor in forging a successful future outside of the EU.
There were calls for greater Government consultation and communication with the business community to end uncertainty and boost belief in the economy.
More than 130 people attended the special event at BU’s Talbot campus. It was backed by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) as well as the Institute of Directors (IOD), Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Poole Chamber of Trade and Commerce, Ferndown Chamber of Commerce, and Daily Echo and Dorset Echo publisher Newsquest.
BCC executive director David Riches chaired the debate. The panel of business leaders comprised NatWest head of corporate Anthony Donohue, Savills (UK) Ltd senior planning director Richard Shaw, Daily Echo editor and head of news Andy Martin, BU economist Prof Nigel Jump, Steele Raymond solicitors managing partner Peter Rolph and Sunseeker International chief executive officer Phil Popham.
BU vice-chancellor Prof John Vinney and DCCI chief executive Ian Girling welcomed delegates before each panellist gave an insight from their sector and the floor was opened for questions.
Issues raised included trade negotiations, timeframes, red tape, consultation, confidence, communication, the media, economic stimulus, procurement and Government action.
A show of hands by attendees also revealed that most were positive about the future.
Ian Girling said: “It was a fascinating debate covering a great many areas and it was incredibly valuable to hear the views and concerns from different perspectives.
“Greater communication with the government came out as a key message and the role of confidence was also identified as crucially important.
“It is vital that our politicians have a strong understanding of the views of the business community.
“We must look forward with confidence. DCCI intends to lead the way in Dorset and give business every support as well as represent members and their concerns at a local and national level.”
He added: “It was another successful event with a great turnout and a very strong panel. I wish to thank Bournemouth University, our partners, the BCC, all of the panellists, and business people who attended.”
David Riches said: “Anyone with potential issues or decisions to make can talk to the BCC or DCCI for advice and we will also feedback up the chain to Whitehall as part of our representations at the highest level.”
Professor John Fletcher, pro vice-chancellor for research and innovation at Bournemouth University, said: “On June 23rd the UK came to a crossroads and chose which of the two paths it would follow.
“Unfortunately, since then it has travelled down the new path looking over its shoulder at the path it is about to leave behind.
“It needs to look forward along the path it has chosen and not try to hang on, or replicate what it has left behind.
“Now is the time to look for brand new opportunities, opportunities that it had never considered before because it was looking towards Brussels.
“Yes, there will be difficult challenges, but we need to find the positives ahead.
“This event was intended to encourage people to look forward for those opportunities, not back.”
DCCI, the voice of business in Dorset, is the only chamber in the county accredited to the BCC.
The debate – for invited business leaders and directors – was part of DCCI’s work to steer members through the maze of Brexit uncertainty and give BCC feedback to support its national lobbying on behalf of business.
Anthony Donohue, from NatWest, said that ‘business as usual’ was the overriding sentiment the bank had found among business but also raised the potential for incentives in the Autumn Statement to encourage investment.
He added: “It is up to us to make our voices heard through organisations such as the BCC and DCCI.”
Richard Shaw from Savills outlined the role of confidence in the property industry and called for Government initiatives to help create greater stability and certainty – including potential Stamp Duty changes and investment in infrastructure.
He added: “The development industry needs to feel it is being helped.
“Engagement by politicians with senior business people and organisations is absolutely critical.”
Andy Martin, from Newsquest, said trust needed to be rebuilt between politicians and the electorate and business community.
He said that confidence was vital and that talking negatively would be a self-fulfilling prophecy for the economy. He also outlined the Echo’s approach to positive business news stories.
Prof Nigel Jump spoke about the potential economic implications of Brexit but also said that fundamental weaknesses in the economy – including the need for higher productivity and greater international trade – still needed to be addressed.
Peter Rolph said that employment law would be a key area, including working time directives and TUPE.
He added: “It is important that we maintain good relations. Both parties in the exit negotiations need to have a proper and satisfactory outcome to allow economic prosperity for both sides.”
Phil Popham of Sunseeker said: “We need some decisive action from Government.
“We need to understand what the timetable is going forward to take away the uncertainty and some of the knee-jerk reactions that we have been seeing.”
The audience included DCCI board members, DCCI Business Partners, Christchurch MP Christopher Chope and Poole MP Robert Syms as well as director level members.
DCCI has about 800 members representing more than 37,000 employees and has eight affiliated chambers. They are Swanage and District Chamber of Trade, Weymouth and Portland, Broadstone, Dorchester, Poole, Bridport, Ferndown and Shaftesbury.
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