Chamber’s message to Bank of England Governor

Cumbria’s economy is in good shape but many businesses here are ill-prepared for a no-deal Brexit.

That was the message that Cumbria Chamber of Commerce delivered to the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, who visited Carlisle today to meet businesses.

The Chamber’s Business Engagement Manager, Julian Whittle, was among a dozen invited guests at a breakfast briefing at the Halston Aparthotel hosted by Mr Carney.

Julian said: “He was keen to understand more about Cumbria’s economy and how businesses here are preparing for Brexit.

“In many ways Cumbria isn’t typical. Eden and South Lakeland have very low unemployment and our working-age population is shrinking. That makes it tough for employers to recruit staff.

“The strength of the nuclear and defence sectors here has made our economy resilient and less prone to cyclical swings.

“That said, we know from our recent Brexit-readiness survey that some Cumbrian businesses are worried by the prospect of the UK leaving the EU without deal.

“Less than half those who completed our survey had started Brexit preparations. And while 57 per cent expect Brexit to harm their prospects only 19 per cent think it will help them.

“Most of those are in the tourism sector where a further fall in the value of the pound could attract more overseas visitors while encouraging Brits to take holidays in the UK.”

Businesses completing the Chamber’s survey raised concerns about the potential for tariffs, customs delays and increased paper work in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Some complained that the weakness in the pound since the EU had pushed up the cost of imported goods and raw materials.

Those that had started Brexit preparations adopted a range of measures including pausing recruitment and investment, currency hedging and stockpiling supplies.

Some are targeting new export markets outside the EU or new customers they believe will be less vulnerable to Brexit.

The Chamber continues to advise businesses to map their supply chains and, if they import from or export to the EU, apply to HM Revenue and Customs for an EORI number.

Detailed information on Brexit planning for businesses is available on the Cumbria Business Growth Hub website.

Mr Carney’s visit to Cumbria follows his warning, in an interview with Sky News on Wednesday, that the risks of a no-deal Brexit remain “alarmingly high”.

© Cumbria Chamber of Commerce