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Fears Suffolk firms 'not doing enough' to prepare for Brexit


By Jason Noble, Local Democracy Reporter


Fears have been raised that Suffolk firms are not doing enough to prepare for Brexit, as D-Day looms for the UK’s European Union withdrawal.

The issue of Brexit preparations was raised during today’s Suffolk County Council scrutiny committee where Chris Starkie, chief executive of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, voiced the concerns.

He said the LEP – which works with businesses, councils and education establishments to promote growth and enterprise – was liaising with the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce on helping firms prepare for Brexit.

Brexit.
Brexit.

“My biggest fear is that the majority of businesses are doing nothing,” he said.

“A good number are planning and good resources are in place to work on a contingency plan.

“But frankly [small businesses] haven’t got the time to sit and do that stuff, so we feel that’s our role to work with them – not just up to the 29th of March but beyond that.

“We want there to be some winners, not just losers.”

Mr Starkie said some larger businesses were taking precautions.

“Businesses are stockpiling cash, we know that from conversations with banks," he said.

“We also know businesses are stockpiling because they are telling us.

“That’s a short term thing but what we don’t know are the consequences of an outcome [either deal or no deal].”

Mr Starkie added that among the area firms should be considering are changes in production costs, import or raw material cost changes, labelling of products and contingency funds for any economic slump.

The LEP is also providing weekly information to central government on how businesses are responding to Brexit, he said.

The Suffolk Public Sector Leaders group of council chief executives and leaders has already outlined an intention to pool the £35,000 Brexit planning cash awarded to each local authority to support small and medium enterprises.

The UK is set to formally leave the European Union on March 29, although MPs this evening are voting on whether to extend the Article 50 deadline into May to allow more time for negotiations with Brussels.



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