BREXIT is finally entering the fast lane after months of talks threatened to drag the process to a standstill.
PM Theresa May, will this month begin thrashing out the final details for us leaving the EU. But with the March 2019 deadline for our departure looming, the shape of our post-Brexit future is still a major question mark hanging over the negotiations.
Now The Sun on Sunday has travelled up and down the country talking to small business owners about what they hope to gain when we bid farewell to Brussels in just 14 months’ time.
In towns such as Stoke-on- Trent, Northampton and Dagenham, we found a guarded sense of optimism that the nation will thrive once we gain our independence.
But there is concern that policy makers will ride roughshod over people’s wishes and cause more economic pain. Here, five readers lay out their demands for Mrs May and her Brexit team.
Mrs May should strike trade deals to bring down export costs
Glen Standage, 45 – Publisher
❝We could probably do quite well out of places like America and China if we were given the chance.
Big corporate companies can access those markets because they have got the right experts on call to help them get in there and start trading.
But for smaller companies like ourselves it’s much more difficult.
Right now I don’t do any business overseas despite advertising our book-binding services on the internet.
Mrs May should strike trade deals to bring down shipping costs and help us send more to foreign customers.
The cost of the paper we use has gone up 50 per cent in four years, and a lot of that is due to the rise in costs to bring it over from places like China.
And Dagenham has suffered since the Ford plant switched production of most of its engine parts to Germany and Spain in 2000.
Thankfully small businesses like mine are stepping in to fill the void, but we need help if we are going to turn this place into a thriving town again.❞
Give British fishermen permits so we catch our own fish again
Darren Kenyon, 50 – Fisherman
FISHERMAN Darren Kenyon hopes that Brexit will return Grimsby to the glory days of the 1950s. But the 50-year-old Brexit voter still worries that politicians might end up selling people like him down the river. Darren said:
❝This is the second chance Grimsby needs to get back on its feet.
This town was great years ago and when I started out in the business I used to make a good living.
Over time more and more fishing licences were sold to foreign fleets that use huge super-trawlers to net vast quantities of our stock.
Right now under the EU we are only allowed to catch about one third of the fish that swim off our shores and we are subject to a huge number of directives on where we can operate.
The rules seem to change all the time so it’s very confusing.
My demand to Theresa May is to give British fishermen permits so we can catch our own fish again.
I employ five people on my boat and 11 at my shellfish shop. I want to expand with a bigger boat but the Government will not give me a licence to do that.
All these EU directives should be scrapped and the Government should create a single policy to maintain the stocks in our waters.❞
A good deal with the EU must limit freedom of movement
Gary Brame, 31 – Butcher
GARY BRAME, who runs Pier Avenue Butchers in Clacton- on-Sea, Essex, has pleaded with Theresa May to maintain trade links with the European Union after Brexit so that the cost of running his business does not increase. The 31-year-old said:
❝I voted to Leave but if we don’t continue to openly trade with the EU it could harm my business.
Most of the chicken fillets I sell in the butchers are imported by wholesalers from Holland, so if they start imposing tariffs my costs will go up significantly.
Already it costs 50p more a pound to buy chicken from English farms and I worry the extra cost would be similar if the European Union ends free trade. To give you an example, the price of eggs jumped about 15 per cent recently because of a contamination scare in the EU, although we refused to put up the prices in our shop.
I could import my chicken from the United States but I would only do so if the quality was as good as the meat I currently get from Europe.
Lamb and beef is not an issue as I purchase most of that from England.
However, I recently started taking lamb from Iceland and the quality is really good, so we could maybe buy from countries like that in future.
I want Theresa May to strike a good deal with the EU but one that limits freedom of movement.❞
Invest in training for young people to help next generation
David Ludlow, 53 – Cobbler
PROUD David Ludlow knows the bespoke leather shoes he makes at his Northampton factory are among the world’s finest. But despite Gaziano & Girling being popular in the US, he does not feel supported by our Government. The manager, 53, who voted for Brexit and employs 30 people, said:
❝Our shoes are just as good if not better than the ones produced by the Spanish and the Italians so we need to get better at waving our own flag.
This is a real opportunity for Theresa May but our industry has never really been supported by the people in Westminster.
The best thing for us would be for Mrs May to strike a good trade deal with the US as we will do a lot more business over there. As we’re with the EU, import tariffs can be as high as 37.5 per cent. So if we can get a cut-price rate we will be at a massive advantage compared to our European competitors.
And we should encourage British people to buy British, rather than purchasing cheap imports from Europe.
During the golden age of shoe production in the 1950s there were hundreds of factories in Northampton but that has nearly died out now.
Most companies moved overseas where labour is cheaper and the industry has been hammered by cheap imports.
We need to invest in training courses for young people so we can help the next generation of British shoemakers.❞
We need the same level of protections to survive outside EU
Tracey Bentley, 53 – Potter
POTTER Tracy Bentley spends her days making beautiful ceramics that are selling like hot cakes all over the world – and she wants Theresa May to think of the little people when she carves out new trade deals. Speaking at her Burslem Pottery shop in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs, Leave voter Tracy, 53, said:
❝The Prime Minister needs to think about entrepreneurs like me when she sits down to negotiate with other countries.
I might not be running a huge corporation raking in billions of pounds, but what my shop does well is create unique and hand-crafted ceramics that are popular all over the world.
I see tourists from everywhere – from as far away as Alaska and New Zealand.
They come here because they buy our ceramics and want to see the beautiful Victorian, canal-side buildings where they are made.
It will be great for my business if we can strike good trade deals which bring down shipping tariffs.
Also, the EU has stopped us being flooded with cheap Chinese ceramics by imposing anti-dumping duties since 2013.❞
Theresa May will need to introduce the same protections if we are to survive outside the EU.
We cannot compete with the Chinese on price but we can better them for quality, heritage and tradition.
Mrs May should fly the flag for Britain and remind people what this country can offer.