British Chambers of Commerce urges next government to focus on improving trading relationship with EU

'Better trading terms are possible if the UK government and the EU reach agreement in areas of mutual benefit for business in both markets.'

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The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), one of the UK’s most influential business networks, is calling on the next government to urgently focus on improving trading with the EU.

In its Business Manifesto, the BCC sets out 17 key policies designed to tackle the challenges facing businesses across the economy, the labour market, international trade and Net Zero.

The manifesto was compiled following extensive consultation with the Chamber network, the BCC’s Business Council, external stakeholders, and academics.

It lists a five-point plan to deliver a better environment for businesses in Britain. It includes an industrial strategy with green innovation at its heart, better skills planning, a reform of business rates to encourage growth and investment, a government-appointed AI champion for SMEs to spearhead the uptake of new technology, and improved relations with the European Union to cut the costs for business.

The manifesto notes how the EU is the UK’s biggest market, accounting for 42 percent of all the country’s exports. It describes how Britain’s departure from the EU has made it more expensive and bureaucratic to sell goods and services across the Channel.

“But better trading terms are possible if the UK government and the EU reach agreement in areas of mutual benefit for business in both markets,” it states.

Presenting the BCC Business Manifesto, Shevaun Haviland, the network’s director general, said:

“Our research indicates business confidence has plummeted to alarmingly low levels, not seen since the height of the pandemic. The political and economic uncertainty over the past few months and the turbulent financial conditions following the government’s mini-budget have damaged this even further.

“With a new government and Prime Minister at the head of the table, it is high time we saw a long-term growth plan that involves investment in people and skills; supports businesses to adapt and thrive; and builds good relationships with our global allies to get British businesses selling again.”

Both the Conservatives and Labour have been criticised for avoiding talking about Brexit. Veteran Tory Michael Heseltine warned that because of a refusal to talk about Brexit, the 2024 general election campaign will be the “most dishonest in modern times.” Claiming that Labour and the Tories are too scared to discuss Brexit because of the potential impact on their voter bases, Heseltine wrote:

“Both major parties are afraid of losing votes to the hard right. Labour needs to rebuild its red wall while the Conservatives run scared of Reform.”

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