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Birmingham business chiefs react to Brexit vote

Birmingham business chiefs react to Brexit vote

🕔24.Jun 2016

Many people in the business community will be feeling uncertain and unsettled following the Brexit referendum decision, warns a Birmingham business leader. 

Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce chief executive Paul Faulkner said the country would have to “reflect on an uncertain new future outside the EU” and negotiations to guide Britain through an exit process would take “a substantial amount of time, finesse and expertise”, he added.

Mr Faulkner cautioned against knee-jerk reactions and urged businesses to remain positive.

Discussions about the process to remove the UK from Europe would require “collaboration, vision and clarity”. He said:

The nation has spoken and there will be mixed emotions today. Those who campaigned for a leave vote will no doubt be celebrating their success and anticipating a newly defined, confident UK outside of the EU.

But there will be many in the business community feeling uncertain and unsettled today.

Ahmed Farooq, chair of BPS Birmingham which acts as the voice of the business, professional and financial services sector, told his members:

The Governor of the Bank of England has made a clear statement, calling up the contingency plans it put in place to maintain the stability of the economy and give confidence to the markets. Stock, currency and other financial markets are reacting to the news and there will inevitably be a period of adjustment. But hearing Mark Carney confirm that the central bank has “taken all the necessary steps” and that it “will not hesitate to take any additional measures required” is welcome.

The UK remains a member of the EU, so there will be no immediate changes to the movement of capital, goods and people or to the regulatory framework in the financial and other sectors.

The Prime Minister has confirmed that the exit process, to be triggered by invoking Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, will not start until a new leader is in place. We will be among the first to see that new PM when they take to the stage in Birmingham at the Conservative Party Conference. The negotiation of new trade agreements with European partners and further afield will be an important early task for them.

The Greater Birmingham economy remains strong, not least in the BPS sector. Local political and business leaders, working with the new West Midlands Combined Authority and the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership, need to continue attracting foreign direct investment and exploiting the opportunities provided by HS2.

The main priority for BPS Birmingham remains that of attracting and retaining talent and skills for our sector. That work continues with our Professional Services Week starting on Monday, aimed at encouraging more pupils in the city’s schools to consider a career in business, professional and financial services.

Paul Faulkner added:

We urge the Government to step up, put political and personal differences aside and act in the best interests of our nation. We need our leaders to quickly, effectively and with one voice deliver a credible plan for a United Kingdom in a new, mid- and post-Brexit world.

Councillor Bob Sleigh, chair of the new West Midlands Combined Authority, issued a short statement after lunchtime on Friday:

We are taking stock of the referendum vote but remain confident that our recently launched economic plan will deliver positive results for the region over the next decade and beyond.

We will continue to work alongside partners including businesses to stimulate the region’s economy and we are determined to punch our weight nationally and internationally to ensure we continue to benefit from ongoing inward investment and foreign direct investment.

Meanwhile, Alexandra Jones, Chief Executive of the Centre for Cities think tank warned of consequences to the pace of devolution promises:

It’s too early to understand the full implications of Brexit for places across the country, but the political and economic uncertainty ahead will clearly have a huge impact on the future of UK city economies. In particular, there are massive question-marks about how Brexit will affect cities which have historically relied on EU funding to strengthen their economies, as well as places which have been able to attract international jobs and investment, partly due to the UK’s membership of the Single Market.

There is also a serious risk that the Government’s devolution agenda will come to a standstill, with the political focus likely to shift to moving powers from Brussels to Westminster, rather than empowering UK cities to grow their economies. In the weeks ahead, it’s vital that political leaders seek to provide as much clarity and certainty on these issues as possible, and demonstrate that UK cities remain open for trade, talent and investment.

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