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Gavin Cleary, CEO of Locate in Kent, hits out at Brexit uncertainty

By Chris Britcher

Current uncertainty over the terms of the UK's departure from the EU "can't continue" according to a leading business figure in the county.

The comments from Gavin Cleary, chief executive of inward investment agency Locate in Kent, come after a survey it conducted revealed businesses are in dire need of a decision on a future trade agreement with Europe.

It polled 100 businesses and discovered the overwhelming response was the lack of clarity on a range of issues rather than the lack of a deal or the right and wrongs of leaving the European Union is having the most impact on business confidence.

The date for our departure from the UK is now just a matter of weeks away
The date for our departure from the UK is now just a matter of weeks away

It comes a little over three weeks before we leave the EU - currently scheduled for March 29.

Mr Cleary said: "More than two years since the referendum and less than a month from the scheduled date of departure, it's clear from our survey that many businesses are still in the dark about what the specific implications of Brexit will be to their organisations.

"While businesses located in Kent and Medway are well positioned to take full advantage of the opportunities in global trade that may come in due course, it's clear the current uncertainty surrounding the terms of the UK's departure can't continue, if businesses are to be fully prepared for whatever comes next.

Gavin Cleary, CEO of Locate in Kent
Gavin Cleary, CEO of Locate in Kent

"The survey echoes what has been found across the UK with many businesses - particularly those linked to overseas markets - delaying key investment decisions that could impact job creation and growth."

The survey was carried out on behalf of Locate in Kent last month against a backdrop of a Westminster impasse on the government's deal in its present form.

MPs have been promised a vote on delaying the UK’s departure from the EU or ruling out a 'no deal' Brexit, if they reject the government's withdrawal agreement deal in a vote expected before March 12.

Time is running out for businesses to prepare for Brexit, the Locate in Kent survey warns
Time is running out for businesses to prepare for Brexit, the Locate in Kent survey warns

Of the 100 Locate in Kent clients surveyed 63% demanded clarity on the UK's Brexit deal, to aid their business planning.

Three quarters of those surveyed want simple regulatory frameworks in place post Brexit, with clarification on tariffs, border controls and the movement of goods of utmost importance.

Close to half (46%) of respondents were concerned with the implications for labour supply, especially those in specialist sectors with some calling for a guarantee around future workforce availability.

A vote on the withdrawal agreement is due to take place within the week
A vote on the withdrawal agreement is due to take place within the week

The Locate in Kent chief added: "The survey showed the resilience of Kent's business from manufacturing to life science and food and drink to creative and digital.

"They shared the threats, but also the opportunities including the potential for more UK rather than outsourced activity.

"For that to happen, businesses in Kent are looking to Westminster to give direction so that they can do what Kent businesses do best - innovate and grow."

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