St Albans reacts after Theresa May triggers Brexit

Brexit Door Illustration isolated on white background. 3D render

Brexit Door Illustration isolated on white background. 3D render - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Trade, EU immigration, and rising costs are the main concerns of St Albans’ leaders as we look towards Brexit.

A number of movers and shakers from business and politics have addressed the implications of Theresa May triggering Article 50 last week.

Most voiced their concerns about how businesses will survive if trade and free movement between the UK and the European Union is curtailed.

The executive director for St Albans Chamber of Commerce, Lisa Bates-Wallis, said: “Businesses supporting and talking to each other will be best placed to overcome any economic challenges that may or may not appear during the Brexit negotiations and beyond.

“The Chamber will continue to be at the forefront of activity to support commercial initiatives, a great example of this is our forthcoming St Albans Business Festival on June 12 to 16 this year.”

The Chamber will also be receiving a delegation from Hungary this month, to help build international links, a course of action which many businesses are taking to prepare themselves for Britain leaving the single market.

Jeremy Read, of accounting firm Grant Thornton, which has an office in St Albans, said: “UK companies need to start taking action now to develop their connections into new markets and collaborating with other companies in their supply chain to increase their access to global trade.

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“There is one additional matter that our clients want government to address now.

“They want them to give a guarantee that EU citizens currently working in the UK will have a right to remain.

“This is creating huge uncertainty for people and the organisations that employ them.

“This is impacting on key parts of the economy already, not least our key public services, and we would call for a unilateral announcement by the Government to secure their position to remain.”

Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Daisy Cooper said: “Many independent shops and businesses are run by EU nationals who have made St Albans their home, but the Conservative government has refused to guarantee their right to stay.

“At the same time, major employers are concerned about the rising cost of goods due to inflation and the future supply of workers.”

The Liberal Democrats are calling on the government to offer a second referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal.

St Albans Labour leader Roma Mills said: “We are walking into the unknown. I’ve been knocking on doors and meeting people who have come into the city who are feeling very worried about staying in the country.

“I remain very alarmed, especially our young people.”

Rising costs are another worry for businesses in St Albans. CAMRA’s John Bishop has warned the price of beer could go up with the increasing price of importing hops and barley.

He said: “As we all know increases in prices will inevitably be passed down the supply chain, as some have already, and this will have an affect on trade across the industry.

“Even tourists to St Albans could lose out with the weaker pound in their pocket, should prices rise.”

He linked this additional strain on pubs and bars to the current battle over rate relief for those worst affected by a proposed rise in business rates.

The government has teased fixes for all of these problems, and there is still support in St Albans for what Brexit offers.

St Albans MP Anne Main said: “Now that the country has voted to leave the European Union and Article 50 has been triggered, we can begin to embrace the exciting opportunities that our country will face.

“I am glad to see that the rights of EU nationals living with us in Britain, and British expats in the EU, is top of the agenda.

“From the economy to citizens’ rights to the environment, Brexit is an opportunity for our country to protect and enhance our offering.

“I believe that we need to come together in a spirit of unity and be optimistic about our future.”