East Midlands businesses want Government to refocus on domestic issues to ensure a successful transition to a post-Brexit economy.
Making the most of the ‘big opportunity’ will be the message local captains of industry will deliver to the heart of Westminster today (Weds 14 November).
Led by the Chamber, a deputation of about 30 local business leaders will go to the heart of Government to deliver a wish list of what they want from elected members and civil servants.
About 23 MPs, including at least one Minister, will join them in the Palace of Westminster to hear Chamber Chief Executive Scott Knowles deliver a manifesto setting out the demands of regional business.
The meeting will take place just five days after the Chamber’s State of the Economy Conference, in Derby, at which scores of regional businesses were given an overview of the local economy and shared their concerns for future trading arrangements.
The aim of the deputation is to make Westminster and Whitehall more aware of what East Midlands businesses believe are the biggest issues blocking regional growth, including a perception of Brexit tunnel vision by Government since the 2016 EU Referendum.
“While there is no doubt that Brexit is the biggest thing to affect business in the UK since the Second World War, we believe the Government is wrong to focus on it to the detriment of domestic issues,” said Scott.
He added: “There seems to be a general unwillingness to progress things that could prove vital to the success of UK plc once we leave the EU. Now is not the time, however, to give potential inward investors any excuse to look elsewhere.
“We need to put the emphasis back on potholes not politics, broadband not Brexit. We need to make sure the rest of the world knows that Britain will remain open for business and be a world-leader in some areas, whatever happens with Brexit.”
The Chamber Manifesto – Growing the East Midlands Together – has been broken down to four principle areas, each of which will work with the Government’s Industrial Strategy, and five specific asks of Government.
The four headings and their content are:
- Connect us – which calls for an end to postcode lottery, of broadband delivery, the eradication of mobile not spots, accelerated rollout of 5G technology and investment in roads, railways and low carbon technologies.
- Get the basics right – which seeks an end the dogmatic focus on grade attainment in education and giving greater weight to employability skills, embedding workplace experience in every child’s schooling, delivering a transparent and predictable business rates system to encourage investment and based on ability to pay and giving teeth to the Small Business Commissioner to tackle late payment.
- Realise our international ambitions – demanding that SME experience is at the heart of future trade agreements, that any trade tariffs are kept to a minimum, the brokering of new deals with emerging markets, continued ability to recruit from overseas, funding for more trade missions, maximisation of existing airports capacity with new route development and reductions in Air Passenger Duty.
- Boost our competitiveness – emphasising the importance of diversification and innovation within current funding structures, supporting supply chains, increasing research and development incentives for businesses investing in products, machinery, plant and people, providing funding to enhance leadership and management skills, particularly in manufacturing and engineering and giving early clarity on the future of the Shared Prosperity Fund.
Behind the four headings, the Chamber is asking Government to back a vision for the region by creating a zone of ultra-high growth in logistics and advanced manufacturing, hinged around East Midlands Airport, the adjacent East Midlands Gateway strategic rail freight interchange and development around Toton that will come with HS2 Phase 2b.
Calling it ‘The Big Opportunity’, the Manifesto calls on Government to:
- deliver a mechanism for joined-up planning decisions across multiple local authority and LEP boundaries
- to confirm delivery of HS2 Phase 2b as early as possible and bring forward the operational date of HS2 to encourage development
- to develop existing plans to create a Manufacturing Zone in the East Midlands, linked to developments around the airport, the SRFI and Toton, and
- to give public backing to these business-led plans for an Ultra-High Growth Zone.
Scott added: “Now more than ever, it essential that our elected representatives deliver the basics that businesses need to grow, and that’s the message we needed to deliver to the heart of Westminster.
“The UK’s future relationship with the EU must not come at the expense of meaningful engagement with domestic policy for growth.
“None of the asks is particularly difficult to deliver individually. If delivered in a cohesive manner, they will bring benefits significantly greater than the sum of their parts, both to the region and to the country in a post-Brexit economy.”
The Westminster deputation is being sponsored by East Midlands Airport. Managing Director Karen Smart said: “During the sixth months I’ve been in post at East Midlands Airport, I’ve seen so much to convince me of the potential for growth and development, not just of our site, but of the whole region. This is a place where we’re starting to see things happen but to continue to grow we need the right infrastructure in place.
“I firmly believe in a future for the East Midlands where tens of thousands of people are employed in cutting edge logistics, advanced manufacturing and global commerce, where state of the art transport is accessible to all and, of course, in a leading UK airport that connects people and products to all corners of the globe. This is all well within our reach.”
Further support came from East Midlands Trains, which provided free transport for delegates on the Westminster visit, and Marketing Derby.