The apprehension that many of us share regarding this week’s vote and what will happen on 12th April or at the end of May cannot be ignored, even though there is a limit to what can be written or said in places like this given the incoherent approach by our two major political parties. One of the challenges both parties face is that they are obliged to listen to people and organisations that fund them with large sums of money and in that setting they can then ignore society as a whole due to our lack of influence and infrequent voting power although large petitions do help! The funders are people whose lives are very distant from the experience and pressures that impact most of the readers of the Brighton Argus newspapers whose views clearly support both Leave and Remain based on the letters that are regularly published. My hope is that we will not end this week with the promise of a crunch ending of the EU departure process, but rather the beginning of a new approach to our relationship with the EU and indeed with the other sixty odd nations linked to the EU by trading and other agreements. The company I work for regularly imports products from EU based manufacturers or traders of sound and video equipment which we then fit into our clients premises and homes. The emails we have received over the last few weeks from some of the best known brands regarding what plans they have prepared for a no deal Brexit acts as a regular reminder that we need either to remain in the EU or if we do leave, that our departure must takes place some way into the future and by then the trading terms need to have been fully worked out. It is rather disappointing how the MP whose constituency covers our business location, who came to visit us late last year for the first time after many invitations had been sent out, has never asked us what impact the EU will have on our business, and her views are very public. One would assume that the although we are a tiny company compared to her party funders such as JCB and her Brexit supporters such as JD Weatherspoon that our role as member of the most significant sector of the UK economy would make it worthwhile asking us some questions. However she clearly did not see the need to raise such a topic with us!
Despite the lack of connection between one Sussex MP and her constituent business over how EU will impact them, it is encouraging that another MP from the same party took part in a question and answer session over small businesses with the Government last Tuesday. Henry Smith from Crawley along with two party colleagues asked “What recent steps he has taken to support small businesses?” and the answer which came from Kelly Tolhurst who is a female Minister! was “We are backing young entrepreneurs by launching an independent review, led by the Prince’s Trust, to understand how we can better support them to turn their business dreams into reality. We are backing small and medium-sized enterprises with our spending power, with our ambitious strategy to ensure that at least £1 in every £3 we spend as a Department is spent with smaller businesses by 2022.” Sadly the follow up questions by a range of MPs in response to this answer did not mention either the Princes Trust review or how the Government will choose to spend its funds although one MP did ask about the EU arrangements! However the MPs across Sussex including Henry and Nusrat could all consider in the light of the question and answer session last week asking a follow up question which would be of assistance to nearly every business in Sussex. The fact is that small and medium-sized enterprises covers companies that employ less than 10 people and have a turnover of less than £2m up to those that employ 250 people and have a turnover of up to £50m. If the Government is setting out to spend £1 of every £3 with companies that employ 250 people and have a turnover of £50m, then the majority of businesses in Sussex will never benefit from this policy. On the other hand if the 16 Sussex MPs could together call on Kelly and her Department to improve the detail of such a plan so that of every £3, say at least 33p was to be spent with small and micro businesses, which employ less than 50 people and have a turnover of less than £10m then some Sussex businesses could potentially benefit significantly.