There has been a distinct shift in the wind in Ashford businesses’ attitude to Brexit in recent months. At the start of this year the real fear was of a No Deal exit, and all the potential difficulties that would cause. More recently the biggest problem has been the continuing uncertainty.
I see a large number of local businesses in a range of sectors, whether in visits or at one of the regular breakfasts organised by the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce or Barclays Bank. For the first time I am now hearing that, although No Deal is still is an outcome that causes fear among business leaders, the continuing uncertainty of no date for exit is actually causing more harm.
The country is facing up to the latest deadline of October 30th, and I am aware that my own Party’s leadership contest means that we have another month to go before we will have a firm policy about what needs to be done before that deadline. The mood now is switching towards the need for certainty, especially among smaller businesses.
Some larger local employers believe the need for extra paperwork and clearances if a No Deal Brexit happens will actually put small firms at a disadvantage, to the extent that they may pull out of exporting altogether. I have asked questions about this to the Department for Exiting the EU, and they do not believe this is the case.
What is interesting is how the public mood, which has certainly been that we should get on with Brexit, is now catching hold in the business world as well. Personally I would be delighted if the public debate moved on to issues like education and the environment, but I am afraid we do need to get Brexit settled first.