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Brexit uncertainty halts Kent business preparation for life outside the UK

By Paul Francis

Businesses in Kent say uncertainty around Brexit is preventing them from preparing for the UK’s departure from the EU.

And there are suggestions that planned investments in Kent are on hold because of the lack of information about future trading agreements and customs checks.

The claims come in a report to a cross-party committee of county councillors, setting out how businesses are preparing for Brexit.

The European Commission headquarters in Brussels
The European Commission headquarters in Brussels

It states: “The uncertainty is currently delaying or preventing most businesses from taking practical steps to prepare for Brexit, and there have been reports of planned investments in the county being postponed due to the uncertainty.”

It cites a recent survey of 100 medium to large sized businesses by Locate in Kent - an investment agency working to attract new businesses - in which 42 said they could not say whether Brexit would have a positive, negative or neutral impact and only six believed the impact would be positive, compared to 29 who said it would be negative.

On the plus side, the report said: “Businesses are tending to take a pragmatic approach with a degree of confidence that they will adapt to the post-Brexit conditions when these are known rather than using resources in trying to prepare when things are uncertain.”

It adds that “for some businesses there are potential opportunities including changes to regulations that might reduce burdens and new trade deals that might be struck.”

“Businesses are tending to take a pragmatic approach with a degree of confidence that they will adapt to the post-Brexit conditions when these are known rather than using resources in trying to prepare when things are uncertain...” - Kent County Council report

Among them is the tourism industry in the county, which has already benefited from the fall in sterling.

Other issues flagged up in the report are whether or not businesses will “have continued access to EU workers” and the “significant number of businesses who have never completed a customs declaration...and will need to start doing this post-Brexit.”

It says there is a question mark over the status of 20,000 seasonal agricultural workers who come to the county to take jobs on farms.

It comes as KCC confirmed a report on the wider impact of Brexit on the county is to be discussed at a full council meeting later this month.

Cllr Mark Dance (Con), KCC cabinet member for economic development, said the county was “at a crucial point” in the countdown to Brexit.

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