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he UK has had a turbulent few months: we've chosen to leave the European Union, have lost a Prime Minister and have seen the


Government ditch its main fiscal rule on deficit reduction. The pace and scale of change has been unnerving, and there is still substantial uncertainty about what comes next. So it's hardly surprising that businesses rank the uncertainty that stems from the referendum as the biggest future barrier to growth. The release of the key findings from the our Q3


Local Business Survey on Brexit have coincided with the timely announcement that Article 50 will be triggered in March of next year. Based on a survey sample of 550 small, medium and large-sized businesses throughout the South West, and a question set that focused on the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, a number of negotiating priorities have emerged as significant to the long-term health of UK businesses, each of which point to fears over the UK’s potential withdrawal from the EU customs union. The survey demonstrated overwhelming support among South West businesses for remaining a member of the customs union, which allows businesses to trade freely across the continent. Negotiations to leave the EU are set to start in 2017. Making major investment decisions in this environment is tough, but it is encouraging


‘Business West is telling firms to ‘make hay whilst the sun shines’ as access to Europe remains easy as long as we are still in the EU’


to see local companies anticipating export opportunities in the coming months, not least to the EU itself. Business West is telling firms to ‘make hay whilst the sun shines’, as access to Europe remains easy as long as we are still in the EU. Now is the time to reach out to clients and customers internationally to reassure them that we are still in business and capitalise on our more competitive advantage following the devaluation of the pound. Whatever vagaries trading with Europe may have in the future, we at Business West


are confident we can guide businessesses through the process. We are currently working with clients to help them trade with countries far more challenging that we can ever envisage the EU to be.


PHIL SMITH MANAGING DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS WEST


NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016 insight 3


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