British Chambers of Commerce: Next government must avoid no-deal Brexit

The next government must focus on avoiding a no-deal Brexit and bring back much-needed confidence to businesses desperate for clarity, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has said.

Confidence can be achieved through action on infrastructure, immigration, skills and business costs, it added, along with a temporary Brexit tax credit for small and medium-sized businesses to offset the costs of leaving the EU.

BCC director general Dr Adam Marshall said: “The message from business communities all over the UK couldn’t be clearer: the next government must deliver an end to the Brexit stalemate and take decisive steps to improve the business environment here at home.

“To say business leaders are angry and frustrated would be putting it mildly. They are doing their bit for the country – and think it is high time politicians do their bit too.

“We cannot afford to allow our infrastructure to fray, for the gaping holes in our training and skills system to go unfilled, or for governments to pile on new costs that stop firms from investing in growth.”

He also attacked politicians over their criticism of business people, saying labelling them as “enemies” is unhelpful.

The Labour Party has launched several attacks on billionaire businessmen, and the Conservative leader Boris Johnson has privately criticised businesses who have been against his Brexit plans.

Dr Marshall said: “Millions of business people across the UK pay their taxes diligently and care deeply about their communities and the environment.

“They should never be seen as the enemies of progress, and Westminster should never be distracted from delivering the conditions needed for growth, jobs and prosperity here at home.”

On Brexit, the BCC said the next government should “introduce a temporary SME Brexit tax credit to support businesses that need to undertake specific activity to adjust to changes in trading conditions”.

It added that a new simple and flexible immigration system should be introduced – especially to allow for temporary and seasonal roles – and called for increased funding for apprenticeships.

The BCC also added to voices from across the business community for the government to overhaul the business rates system in England and Wales.

Public investment in infrastructure should rise to at least 1.4% of GDP per year, up from the current recommended levels of 1.2%, and legal frameworks should be in place for HS2 and a UK-wide high-speed rail network “as soon as possible”, it added.