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Expert Comment on Theresa May's Brexit speech – impact on business

Commenting on the Prime Minister's speech today, Robert Hannah, chief operating officer at Grant Thornton UK LLP, said:
"Since the UK's historic vote to leave the EU, businesses have been calling for greater clarity on what the Brexit process will look like and what it might mean for the UK's economy in the near and longer term. In her most compelling update to date, Theresa May went some way in outlining this process and offered 12 objectives for the negotiations – first and foremost being to provide clarity and certainty wherever feasible.
"However, as businesses of all shapes and sizes will be affected over the coming years, they remain eager to gain the clarity in detail which is still missing in order to plan effectively and prudently.
“Whilst leaving the Single Market provides significant challenges to UK exporters, they should take some encouragement in the PM's vision for a global Britain and acknowledgement that Britain wants to remain a 'best friend and neighbour to our European partners'. Government efforts to 'build a truly global Britain' will be welcomed by the business community, but this will also require new ways of thinking and working – both within Government and in the business community.
“In line with its newfound priority in providing certainty, how will the Government now go beyond talking about engaging with new markets outside the EU and start providing UK corporates with actual support and incentives (e.g. export tax credits) to explore these new markets, develop robust supply chains and nurture new distribution channels to support growth? These are critical matters for our clients and addressing them too late in the two year exit process could be highly detrimental to our exporting prospects. Looking at the rate of growth and export activity by many emerging nations, there is a danger the UK gets left behind due to an over-reliance on EU markets and a lack of experience and support to develop new markets.
"A more detailed and considered export strategy will no doubt help focus minds on Britain's new competitive landscape and help identify the opportunities, and challenges, British businesses will face over the coming years. We look to the upcoming Industrial Strategy announcement to provide a degree of clarity and detail on this.
"The PM's indications on talent and immigration will give many businesses food for thought. Whilst her focus seemed on maintaining the UK's attractiveness to highly skilled workers, and she gave reassurances to those EU citizens currently living and working in the UK, concessions may need to be made in the negotiation process to ensure the UK's workforce is fit for purpose across all levels of the skills spectrum.
"The focus on a fairer and more inclusive Britain will resonate with many. Ensuring that the voice of businesses – small, medium and large – informs the negotiation process over the coming years will be vital to a successful exit. Brexit is the catalyst to exploring how we best support businesses to export and ensure a thriving and supportive domestic framework. If Britain is serious about getting match fit for the new global economy, Government must engage and listen to their concerns and support them going forward."

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