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Business leaders' open letter to ministers about Brexit

By Chris Price

The largest business organisations in the UK have joined forces to press the government to keep access to the single market throughout the Brexit process until a final deal with the EU is agreed.

An early deal to guarantee the rights of EU citizens is also a priority set out in the open letter to Business Secretary and Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark.

The Brexit Secretary David Davis has formally opened the landmark Brexit talks with his EU counterparts in Brussels today.

The EU headquarters in Brussels

The EU headquarters in Brussels

The business wishlist, published on Sunday, is signed by the bosses of the British Chambers of Commerce, CBI, Institute of Directors, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and the manufacturers' organisation the EEF. 

It asks for tariff-free trade between the UK and Europe – and asks for the business community to be consulted throughout the negotiations.

The letter also calls for a flexible system for access to labour and skills across the continent – which would be particularly welcome in the hospitality and farming sectors which rely on migrant workers.

Jo James, chief executive of Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, said: “It is reassuring for Kent businesses that the four business representation organisations are working together to ensure that the needs of business, irrespective of size or sector are at the centre of the Brexit negotiations.

Kent Invicta Chamber chief executive Jo James

Kent Invicta Chamber chief executive Jo James

“Trade tariffs and customs formalities are a top priority, along with a flexible system for the movement of labour and skills between the United Kingdom and the European Union.

“By working together we can ensure the best possible business outcome in the coming negotiations.”

Friday will mark the first anniversary of the vote to leave the EU in a referendum last June.

Jane Ollis, chairman of the Kent branch of the Institute of Directors, said: “With Brexit negotiations kicking off today, the voice of UK business across the country has spoken loudly and clearly.

"The deal has to support the benefits of the single market and tariff-free goods, to support business growth for us, as well as the thousands of EU businesses who rely on trade with the UK, generating close to £300bn annual revenue for them."

Alison Parmar, development manager at FSB Kent, said: “The start of the Brexit talks is a crucial moment for the future of the UK economy, which is why FSB has joined other business groups in the unusual step of a joint letter to the Business Secretary.

FSB Kent development manager Alison Parmar

FSB Kent development manager Alison Parmar

“It is vital that there is a pro-business Brexit deal, with the best possible access to the EU single market.

“We would like to see tariff-free trade, without cumbersome customs bureaucracy.

“Goods should be able to pass easily through Dover and Folkestone, allowing small firms easy access to markets across the Channel without unnecessary border delays, which would risk causing extra congestion on some of Kent’s busiest roads.

“Now is the time to focus on making Brexit as much of a success as possible, putting small businesses in a strong position to thrive and grow.”

The business wishlist, published on Sunday, is signed by the bosses of the British Chambers of Commerce, CBI, Institute of Directors, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and the EEF. 

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