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British Chambers of Commerce News

British Chambers of Commerce News (504)

Commenting on the inflation statistics for December, released today by the ONS, Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “Inflation has eased for the first time since June 2017, with air fares placing the largest downward pressure on price growth in December.

“It’s probable that inflation is on a downward trajectory, as the impact of the post-EU referendum slide in sterling starts to fade. However, our own survey data suggests that the substantial increases in the cost of raw materials over the past year are still passing through supply chains, and therefore progress back to the Bank of England’s 2% target is likely to be painfully slow. As a consequence, the cost pressures on both consumers and business is set to remain sizable over the near term, and together with faltering confidence levels, is likely to stifle overall economic activity.

Commenting on the Home Affairs Committee’s report on immigration policy, published today, Jane Gratton, Head of Business Environment and Skills at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “The BCC has long campaigned for an immigration policy that supports business and the economy, so we welcome the Home Affairs Committee raising these issues.

“With unemployment at an all-time low, job vacancies remaining unfilled and businesses facing pervasive skills shortages, it makes no sense to cut-off an important supply of skills and labour. Businesses are not deliberately targeting non-UK workers, nor are they failing to train the UK workforce, but over half of firms we surveyed told us they would be affected in some way should there be any future restrictions on the rights of EEA nationals to work in the UK.    

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) publishes its Quarterly Economic Survey – the UK’s largest and most authoritative private-sector business survey. Based on the responses of over 7,000 businesses, the survey shows that growth in the UK economy remains subdued, with almost all services indicators below their pre-EU referendum levels and the strong performance of manufacturers easing slightly in the final quarter of 2017.

The findings of the survey indicate the skills shortages are reaching critical levels. Of the service sector firms hiring, the percentage of firms reporting recruitment difficulties rose to 71%, the highest since records began. In manufacturing, the percentage of recruiting firms reporting greater difficulties is at its highest since Q4 2016.

A future UK-EU trade deal must minimise barriers to trade says the British Chambers of Commerce, as it releases the results of its survey, in partnership with DHL, which finds UK businesses regard Europe as their primary trading partner for the coming years.

The results, based on the responses of over 1,300 businesses, found that over the next three years, the top two markets which most businesses plan to start or continue exporting to are Western Europe (44%), and Central and Eastern Europe (32%). Western Europe (36%) is also the market which most firms plan to import from.

“We welcome the fact that the European Council has approved the progression of talks to the discussion of a transition period, and a future trade relationship.

“It is our collective view that the transition period must now be agreed as soon as possible, to give businesses in every region and nation of the UK time to prepare for the future relationship. Further delays to discussions on an EU-UK trade deal could have damaging consequences for business investment and trade, as firms in 2018 review their investment plans and strategies.

Commenting on the labour market statistics released today by the Office for National Statistics, Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “While the UK unemployment rate remains historically low, the second successive drop in UK employment suggests that labour market conditions are moderating a little. However, the drop in both UK unemployment and employment was at least partly due to the rise in people who are now classed as economically inactive.  

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has today joined with national Chamber organisations from six countries bordering the North Sea, on the United Kingdom and the European Union to swiftly move to talks on transition and the future EU-UK trade relationship now that sufficient progress in the first phase of the Brexit negotiations has been made.

This landmark joint statement, from Chambers of Commerce representing businesses in seven countries that accounts for 70% of EU-UK trade in both directions, calls on both sides to provide clarity on what the future relationship will look like as soon as possible, and to strive for a trade-friendly agreement with a realistic transition period.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has slightly downgraded its three-year outlook for the UK economy, cutting growth expectations from 1.6% to 1.5% in 2017, from 1.2% to 1.1% in 2018, and from 1.4% to 1.3% in 2019.

The slight downgrade to the leading business group’s forecast is mainly driven by a slightly weaker contribution from net trade across the forecast period, while household consumption and business investment are expected to remain sluggish through the forecast period. UK productivity is also forecast to remain subdued.

Commenting on the news that the UK government and the European Commission have reached a deal to conclude the first phase of the Brexit negotiations, Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“Businesses will be breathing a sigh of relief that ‘sufficient progress’ has been achieved. After the noise and political brinksmanship of recent days, news of a breakthrough in the negotiations will be warmly welcomed by companies across the UK.

 

The planning system in England is more complex, costly and difficult for business than it was 5 years ago, according to a major report published today (Monday) by the British Chambers of Commerce.

 

The BCC report says that five years after the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which was designed to make the system less complex and more accessible, businesses are experiencing too many delays and barriers to investment. 

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