Post-Brexit Customs Models Discussed

Businesses from West & North Yorkshire have met with government representatives to discuss post-Brexit future customs arrangements.

The meeting, organised by West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, saw attendees call for the government to avoid a prolonged transition period, as this would add to increasing levels of uncertainty facing many firms.  It was suggested that the two-year period put forward by the government was formed without adequate assessment of what was actually needed.  The purpose of the session was two-fold: for the civil servants to take soundings on two possible post-Brexit customs arrangements being considered; and for businesses to comment on the possible effects on their operations of these new models.

The meeting was held at Shulmans LLP in Leeds recently, and attended by civil servants from the Treasury and HMRC.  Shulmans’ partner Andrew Latchmore, who chairs the Chamber’s Brexit Advisory Group, facilitated the meeting with two dozen senior business people, mainly from manufacturers and engineers who import and export.

Anastassia Beliakova of British Chambers of Commerce (white jacket) and Andrew Latchmore (to Anastassia’s left) at a previous Brexit meeting

The two options put forward – described as a “streamlined arrangement” and a “new customs partnership” – are aimed at smoothing the transition for businesses, while acknowledging that both involve moving into unchartered territory.  The first involves harnessing technological solutions and sharing data, with the second being a complex system, mirroring the EU’s approach but backed by rigorous tracking to clarify origin and destination of goods; the latter method would allow tariff reimbursements or paying additional duty where differences exist between EU and UK tariff rates.  Option two assumes, at present, that the UK would enjoy no tariff barriers for EU trade – a position deemed unlikely, according to those at the meeting and other observers.  The businesses present said there was insufficient detail on either option at present, although they were keen to engage again with the civil servants.

Andrew Latchmore said afterwards:

“The Chamber meeting was the latest in a series aimed at both seeking business views about Brexit, and creating a dialogue with Westminster and Whitehall to develop the new policies needed in this area.  There is no precedent for these negotiations, nor the surrounding work.  While the two models considered are certainly challenging, the representatives at the meeting stressed that these were models for consideration but other suggestions for customs models can and should be put forward.  The strong message the civil servants took away was that the uncertainty of not knowing the post-Brexit arrangements has begun to cause difficulties for businesses now.  Once the nature of the customs regime becomes clear, businesses can plan ahead and make the best of the arrangements, whatever they are, even if they are not ideal.  A transition period will be necessary and helpful but what matters most is that an early agreement is reached as to what the arrangements will be, and the decision is promptly communicated to business.  We must not still be in a position of uncertainty 12 months from now.”

The officials present agreed to return for future meetings once more views and evidence have been gathered.

Region is outperforming national economy, says survey

Yorkshire businesses are outperforming the national average over the course of the third quarter.

This is the headline report from the latest economic survey of West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce.  Businesses trading both domestically and internationally have reported increased sales and thickening order books, with the latter in particular benefitting from recent currency fluctuations.  More companies are also looking beyond Europe to find new places to trade.

The positive signs are not restricted to particular sectors either, with good news coming in from manufacturers as well as services.  The latter, though, has plenty to cheer, with domestic orders rising for the fourth consecutive quarter.  The pace of job creation is levelling out, however: significant numbers of firms looking to recruit are having difficulties finding suitable staff.

In another boost for Yorkshire’s economic prospects, capital investment in the manufacturing sector is now at its highest level since the recession, says the Chamber; training investment also rose in both sectors of the economy.  The positive signs were also mirrored in confidence levels – turnover and profit expectations were raised in both services and manufacturing, with the latter’s profitability back to levels last seen in 2015.

Roger Marsh OBE at a recent Leeds Chamber lunch

The Chamber’s latest QES report can be found on a different page of this website here

Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, which sponsors the survey, said:

“The results are cause for renewed optimism as it finds businesses in a generally positive mood with both domestic and exporting activity increasing for services and manufacturing firms. This is encouraging to see and shows that levels of enthusiasm remain high among City Region businesses and the results suggest that this is translating into increased employment and business investment, which will help continue this momentum into the future.”

Mark Goldstone, Head of Policy & Representation at the Chamber, added:

“The survey results show the region’s economy to be holding up very well.  In fact, our results are more positive than the national findings, showing that Yorkshire’s economy is robust, lively, dynamic and confident.   We now have one eye on the Autumn Budget, where we will be asking the Chancellor to deliver measures that support business growth, stimulate investment and provide confidence and reassurance.”

Sponsors of the Chamber Quarterly Economic Survey

BCC Budget Submission, be bold, Chancellor, and ease business rates hardship

Ahead of the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget on November 22, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) is urging the government to take immediate action to halt the expected 3.9% increase in business rates valuations next year, as part of a bold Budget that seeks to boost the UK’s productivity.

The UK’s leading business group, which represents almost 75,000 companies employing almost six million people in every region and nation of the UK, calls on the Chancellor to take action now to get the UK economy ready for when the country leaves the European Union.

The BCC proposes pausing the Corporation Tax roadmap, with the tax remaining at 19% until after Brexit – with the resulting revenue ring-fenced to help ease the burden of up-front taxes and costs that hit business cash flow and undermine investment.

The BCC calls on the government to take bold action across three key areas, to help businesses deal with the challenges and opportunities that Brexit provides, kickstart a productivity surge, and ensure that the domestic economy is in the best possible position on day one of leaving the EU:

  • Tackling the upfront cost of doing business – pledging not to introduce any more input taxes and other significant costs, abandoning the annual uprating of business rates for the next two years, and removing plant and machinery from business rates valuations.
  • Incentivise business investment during the Brexit process – through the introduction of a ‘Brexit Special’ Annual Investment Allowance, temporarily increasing the limit to £1 million.
  • Fixing the fundamentals – committing to ensuring complete voice coverage on mobiles by 2020, and kickstarting infrastructure projects vital to our economic future, from Northern Powerhouse rail and Crossrail 2, to bringing forward investment in the road network.

Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“At a critical moment for the UK economy, the Chancellor must be bold – and deliver a big budget that prioritises economic confidence and investment.

“The best possible Brexit deal won’t be worth the paper it’s written on if conditions for growth aren’t right here at home. The Chancellor has a unique chance to move the dial on growth and productivity now, leaving the UK in a position to succeed over the long term. Action to slash the up-front costs faced by business, to incentivise investment, and to improve mobile coverage and infrastructure would lead to a real boost to productivity, wages and trade.

“A Budget that prioritises goodies and giveaways rather than future-proofing the economy would be a dereliction of duty by the government as a whole.”

On business rates:

“It would be unconscionable for the government to use September’s inflation figures to slam businesses with a huge rise in rates, particularly when they already face spiralling up-front costs. A failure to act would hit the high street, manufacturers and others hard – and undermine the sort of investment we need to boost productivity.”

On investment:

“Too many companies are playing a wait-and-see game at the moment. We need a big, bold incentive to get more firms investing – particularly ahead of the Brexit transition.”

On infrastructure:

“A sugar hit for voters would quickly fade, but the protein boost provided by increased investment in infrastructure and digital connectivity would be felt for decades. Ramping up infrastructure investment across all regions and nations of the UK, and getting long-planned projects off the drawing board, gives a huge boost to business confidence and creates both jobs and business opportunities.”

Paula’s pride at presidential role

Leeds Chamber President Paula Dillon has spoken of her pride at being asked to take on the top job.

Speaking in a wide-ranging interview with, Paula says how she is looking forward to being an ambassador for the Leeds business community, and proud to be part of an all-female team (her vice-president is Shulmans partner and Head of Planning, Amanda Beresford)

Paula also thanked her employer, Bond Dickinson, for encouraging her to take on the new role.

“The firm wanted me to do this and have been immensely supportive and my clients are too. I have had the most fantastic career here in Leeds and part of me taking on the role of president will allow me to continue to learn, that is a big thing for me. In my job, I don’t know what each day will bring but that’s how businesses work and you meet interesting people along the way.”

Read Paula’s interview here.

Nominations open for Northern Powerhouse Export Awards

Nominations are now open for the PD Ports Northern Powerhouse Export Awards in association with HSBC.

The PD Ports Northern Powerhouse Export Awards and International Trade Campaign seek to recognise the most entrepreneurial exporters from across the North of England.

Businesses of all shapes and sizes are being encouraged to enter with a host of awards on offer – from micro exporter to scale-up and most entrepreneurial exporter of the year.

Over 200 people came together at this year’s event in February which saw Hartlepool-based cable manufacturer JDR Cables take home the Exporter of the Year award.

Geoff Lippitt, business development director at PD Ports, said: “As owners and operators of Teesport, one of the top five UK ports and a major export hub, we are delighted to sponsor the Northern Powerhouse Export Awards 2017 alongside BQ and HSBC.

“The awards reflect our firm commitment and investment in supporting further growth of exports and the associated value to drive economic prosperity across the North; exporting will undoubtedly be a major catalyst in delivering the Northern Powerhouse.

“We look forward to joining our many existing customers and other great exporting organisations at the ceremony to hear of continued export successes and to celebrate the strength and diversity of our Northern exporters.”

HSBC has also thrown its weight behind this year’s event and is hoping the event will be just as successful as the inaugural event in February.

Leigh Briggs, Regional Director, Global Trade and Receivables Finance for HSBC in the North, said: “For over 150 years, HSBC has been helping to support growth ambitions through exporting by connecting our customers to international opportunities.

“HSBC is delighted to support the Northern Powerhouse Export Awards and International Trade Campaign to recognise and celebrate those forward-thinking businesses, who play such a big part in boosting the region’s economy by taking their products and services all over the world.”

Bryan Hoare of BQ added: “Encouraging businesses to explore exporting opportunities is central to BQ’s ethos. I believe this is a great opportunity for northern businesses and would recommend any business, small or large, to get involved.”

The awards are now open for nominations and tickets for the event are also on sale. To get involved, click here.

Come and quiz senior Council team

Bradford Council’s big hitters are to speak to a joint Property Forum-Professionals’ Network audience in Bradford.

Businesses have the opportunity to hear first-hand about plans for economic growth, regeneration and other issues likely to affect future prosperity across the District, aswell as being able to tell the local authority representatives about their issues.

On Monday 6 November, 5-7pm, at the Midland Hotel, four of Bradford Council’s most senior management team will be on the same panel for this Chamber of Commerce event.  Businesses are advised to book early to secure their places at the meeting.

Allan Booth & Marianne McCallum at a recent forum

Bradford Council is putting forward the following representatives at the event:

  • Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader
  • Kersten England, Chief Executive
  • Steve Hartley, Director of Place
  • Shelagh O’Neill, Assistant Director, Economy & Development

The event will be facilitated by BPF Chair, Allan Booth.  Allan, a director with architects Rance Booth Smith, said:

“We are very much looking forward to this event – to get four of the most senior Council leaders in the room at one time is a rare occurrence.  That’s not to say they are unwilling to speak to businesses: far from it – we are finding that local authority representatives are wanting to meet with and speak to businesses now more than ever; to seek out their views, and find out first-hand how those businesses are doing, and so on.  It’s just that, with ever-increasing pressures on time, nailing down a date can take some doing.  I would urge businesses to get booked onto this event, and get thinking about the questions they want to ask – it’s going to be an interesting couple of hours.”

The Property Forum runs quarterly events for businesses in that sector.  The events are planned by a steering group, which also deals with matters affecting business relating to city centre regeneration, employment land, housing and transport.  The speakers on 6 November will be asked to give updates on all these areas at the event.

Bradford’s Professionals’ Network, chaired by BHP’s Roger Thompson, also meets quarterly for businesses in banking/finance, insurance, legal and selected others with formal qualifications.

About the event, Roger added: “These events are a good platform for businesses to meet and speak to influential people who can have a direct bearing on the future direction of our economy and our city. We appreciate the time being given by the panel, and we’re looking forward to their updates, aswell as expecting some challenging questions.”

To book on the event or for more information, call 01274 206660 or email here.  The price is £15 members/£30 non-members.

NOTE:  This is a change of timing (and day) for this event due to pressures on speakers’ calendars.

Rance Booth Smith are also sponsoring this event.  

Yorkshire businesses take the lead at national awards

Ahead Partnership and Arena Group, have been crowned winners in the Yorkshire round of the Chamber Business Awards.

The Chamber Business Awards is one of the UK’s most contested and prestigious business award programmes. Each year, organisations of all sizes and from all sectors compete for the coveted titles and the national recognition they bring.

Arena Group, the hard copy and electric document management company, has won the excellence in customer service award.

Gary Putson, Sales Director for Arena Group, commented: “I am very proud to receive this award on behalf of the Arena Team. It recognises the commitment & effort put in to create a client-centric culture across the entire business. Last year we launched our Total Satisfaction Methodology (TSM), a unique method designed & built in collaboration with our clients, based on MSc action research and academic study. TSM frames everyday actions of all Arena employees and has helped us all raise the bar in terms of client satisfaction and retention rates in increasingly competitive markets. TSM also builds on the values upon which this business was successfully founded over 25 years ago – service excellence really is in our DNA!”

Furthermore, Ahead Partnership, the social enterprise which works to connects businesses and community, has taken first place in the Education and business partnership category.

Stephanie Burras, Chief Executive of Ahead Partnership, said: “We’re thrilled that Ahead Partnership and its very successful Make the Grade education business programme has been acknowledged with this regional award. The impact that we achieve would not be possible without the diligence and enthusiasm of a highly committed team and visionary partners in education and business, many of which are Chamber members.”
“This award reflects the excitement that all of our stakeholders feel around the programme and its ability to engage young people effectively and creatively in the world of work. We are looking forward to continuing our national growth, starting with our Sheffield City Region launch later this year.”

Both businesses will lead the way for Yorkshire at the national finals, which are taking place in London in November and will be joined by representatives from the West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, of which the businesses are members.

EU nationals right to remain: Chancellor comments

Following the first meeting of the EU Exit Business Advisory Group last month, the British Chambers of Commerce wrote to the Chancellor regarding the immigration status of EU citizens living and working in the UK.

Since the referendum, we have called on government to give an unconditional guarantee to all EU citizens in the UK. Some businesses are losing key members of staff, while other employees are indicating an intention to leave due to the uncertainty. At a time of near full employment and the skills gap facing firms at all levels, the potential loss of existing EU employees in many firms would have a significant impact on UK productivity and growth.

The Chancellor’s response should give some assurances to EU citizens currently living in the UK, particularly those that arrived before the triggering of Article 50 on 29 March 2017. These EU citizens will be able to stay until they have the five years’ residence to apply for UK settled status.

While this offer may not be as comprehensive as some firms would like, we hope this will prove helpful to businesses seeking to support and advise their European employees.

BCC Letter to Chancellor

Chancellor’s Reply

Pledge your support for new station

Powerhouse station supporters

Next Stop Bradford has launched a new website that aims to increase support from businesses and residents to help secure a Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) station in Bradford city centre.

Next Stop Bradford’s aim is to ensure that Bradford, the fifth largest city in the UK with one of the fastest growing economies, secures a new high-speed railway station in the centre as part of the proposed investment in better transport connectivity across the North.

Launched in early 2017, Next Stop Bradford continues to demonstrate the economic and social benefits an NPR station would bring to the city and the north. An NPR station in Bradford is predicted to bring an annual economic boost of £1.3bn to the local economy, improve journey times and increase capacity on the railway network.

The campaign has already gained support from leading voices across the region including Leeds City Council, West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Leeds City Region LEP, West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce and key businesses such as Yorkshire Building Society and The Broadway Bradford.

Through the “Pledge my support” web page ( residents, businesses and community leaders are encouraged to show their support for this transport investment by sharing why they believe Bradford should be included on the NPR network. This information will help demonstrate to decision makers at Transport for the North and in the Government why Bradford must be included in this major infrastructure investment.

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford Council and Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority said:

“Better connectivity to major centres like Manchester and Leeds is important but it’s also about the huge economic boost it would provide to Bradford, acting as a catalyst for further regeneration in the city centre and delivering growth opportunities across the whole district.

“There’s a big prize at stake in Bradford and residents, businesses as well as politicians have a role to play in demonstrating our united support for this ambition. I encourage everyone to visit the new Next Stop Bradford website and pledge your support for investment in a Northern Powerhouse Rail Station in Bradford city centre.”

Mark Cowgill, Co-Founder & Director of Exa Networks based in Bradford city centre said: “Shortening journey times from Bradford to Leeds to just 7 minutes and to Manchester in 20 minutes has the potential to dramatically impact the growth of businesses like ours. It would mean we could target new clients further afield, widen our access to skills and talent and boost the economy of the local area making Bradford an even more attractive place to live and work.

“That is why I am supporting the Next Stop Bradford campaign to ensure we secure the transport links that will help businesses like mine for decades to come.”

Bradford is home to over 17,000 businesses with market- leading companies such as Yorkshire Building Society, Santander and Morrisons and thriving SMEs which play a key role in the economic success of the city. As the youngest city in the UK with nearly 25% of the population under 16, the need for better transport infrastructure is critical to the future growth of the city so that people can access the jobs and business can connect with the economic opportunities of the future.


Notes to editors

Next Stop Bradford website can be found at

For the latest updates on the campaign, follow @nxtstopbradford and #NextStopBradford

Bradford – key statistics

  • Bradford District’s population is 531,200 and growing. In terms of metropolitan districts and other Council areas, it sits only behind Birmingham, Leeds and Sheffield. Bradford is bigger than many other cities in the UK, including Liverpool, Bristol and Nottingham.
  • Bradford’s £9.5 billion economy is the fifth largest in the Northern Powerhouse.
  • Bradford University jumped 20 places in 2017’s Guardian University rankings, now sitting in 52nd position.
  • Bradford’s working age population is predicted to grow by 24,000 by 2024.
  • A train from Bradford to Manchester takes around an hour, and averages only 42mph.
  • A train from Bradford Interchange to Leeds takes over 20 minutes, averaging only 33mph.
  • With a city centre NPR station, Bradford would be only seven minutes from Leeds, and twenty from Manchester bringing with it vast economic opportunities.
  • Bradford is an integral part of the Leeds City Region economy which is the largest economic area in the UK outside of London with a population of over 3 million people.
  • 45,000 people commute between Bradford and Leeds each day, the largest flow between any two cities in the UK. However, 74% of these commuters travel by car.