Today marks the third anniversary of the EU referendum result. I recall a few days earlier on Tuesday 21st June 2016 how Michael Gove stated on Radio 4 Today that if we vote to leave, that our departure would begin on the 24th June. Yet here we are three years later and the indications of how we will depart are no clearer today than it was then. Indeed the current promise that we will be gone within 130 days is just as certain as Michael Gove’s promise was 3 years ago. It is of course understandable for people who want to leave to demand that we will do so by a given date, but when the end result is clearly so complicated and has proven to be so hard for a credible way forward to be found, it would have been fantastic if at least one current candidate for No 10 Downing Street had been willing to make similar comments to those from Rory Stewart. After all if we are faced with a major challenge in our own lives, the nature of what the solution will be, becomes at least as important as how long it will take to be brought to bear. After all both men have admitted that it would be a tragic mistake to leave without a deal so perhaps they could begin to explain how to resolve the challenge with a land based border between Northern Ireland and Eire and the coastal border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. Given that around 6.8m people recently signed a petition to revoke article 50 and the number of people who will vote to determine our next Prime Minister is less than 2% of that number it is also reasonable to ask how the winner will deal with such concerns even if they are not a good reflection of the views of their voting cohort.
Outside of the issue of who will be our next Prime Minister and how he will address the EU referendum and its baggage, in the last few days a session in the House of Commons took place that gave the appearance of a promise to help businesses such as the majority of those in Sussex that are primarily small or micro enterprises. The Minister, Kelly Tolhurst mentioned a committee which Hove MP Peter Kyle is part of stating “I am sure that it will hold us to account on the improvements that we are announcing today” Perhaps Peter can also hold them to account for the gaps in the announcements! Her speech included the following “The Government are committed to supporting small and medium-sized enterprises to start well and grow… I am announcing today that I will now take further and firmer action to tackle the scourge of late payments” However when it came to the rest of the statement she referred to how “I will shortly launch a consultation… I am also announcing today that responsibility for the voluntary prompt payment code is to move to the small business commissioner and be reformed…I will take a tough compliance approach to large companies that do not comply with the payment practices reporting duty. The legislation allows for the prosecution of those who do not comply. I will use this enforcement power against those who do not comply, where necessary… I also intend to establish a ministerial-led group to bring together key Government Departments to act on improving prompt payment across both the public and private sectors.”
The reality is that late payments and payments that are on time but which follow an unreasonable period after the work and products have been delivered are having a very damaging impact on small businesses and having more consultation and reforming internal governmental mechanisms is frankly not much use to a business that today is waiting for a payment that should have arrived months ago. Perhaps a few prosecutions would improve our business culture. As the shadow Minister pointed out “Late payment is believed to be the cause of 50,000 business failures each year, at a cost to the economy of £2.5 billion, along with thousands of jobs.” As the debate carried on seemed clear is that the Government is being too slow to call on large businesses to pay small businesses promptly and indeed reference was made to businesses such as Aldi, WH Smith and Morrisons who so far are unwilling to sign up to prompt payment terms. Let us hope as we count down towards the end of October when we will have left the EU which will have a huge impact on businesses that the Government will have strengthened their small business support by then!