Yorkshire business leader Roger Marsh says Brexit could bring 'renaissance of UK PLC'

One of Yorkshire's most senior business figures says the new UK's new freedoms after leaving the European Union could bring about a "renaissance of UK PLC" with the North playing a crucial part in its prosperity.

Roger Marsh, who chairs Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) said the region needed to seize the opportunity created by UK's new position outside the European Union's trading structures which started on December 31 at 11pm.

There will be disruption as a result of the increased bureaucracy between the UK and its largest trading partner, with one Yorkshire business saying the new arrangements will lead to “uncertainty, cost and bureaucracy” for firms that trade with Europe.

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But there was little sign of the chaos some had feared yesterday. Lower trade volumes on the New Year's Day bank holiday could mean the full impact of the new regime is yet be felt, but freight appeared to be moving freely at the borders and things were running "smoothly" at the Humber docks of Hull, Grimsby and Immingham.

Mr Marsh, a former Senior Partner at PwC, said the "devil was in the detail" of the trade agreement agreed on Christmas Eve, which had only a few hours of scrutiny from Parliament before it was passed into law.

And because the deal does not include an EU-wide arrangement for services, the impact on West Yorkshire's vital professional and financial services sectors was not yet known.

But he said the 60 trade deals already set up around the world with nations such as Mexico, which is predicted to become one of the world's 10 largest economies within a generation, would aid investment in the North.

A view of the Sevington Inland Border Facility being constructed in Ashford, Kent, as the UK leaves the single market and customs union and the Brexit transition period comes to an end. PA Photo

A member of a government advisory panel focused on maintaining the UK's attractiveness for inward investment, he said the UK was also well-placed to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, described as one of the world’s largest and most dynamic free trade areas.

He said: "Whether you agree or don't agree with the decision of the population some four years ago, we made that decision, we've now moved on from it, we've now set up arrangements with the EU, that we believe are fair and balanced.

"We've actually got off our proverbials and got into a much better place with other parts of the world, that perhaps we've been a bit lackadaisical with in the past.

"I do think this is an opportunity for the renaissance of UK PLC and the North being crucial to that and obviously our part of the world being an important driver in this."

He added: "I genuinely believe that the already high attractiveness of UK PLC and the North in particular is going to be greatly enhanced in the years ahead as a result of this and it's for us to seize that opportunity.

"Let's let's not lose sight of the fact that the under-invested in North has still performed reasonably well, it's about unleashing its massive potential and trade and investment is important."

David Kerfoot, who chairs the York and North Yorkshire LEP said he was pleased a disastrous 'no deal' had been avoided but "there undoubtedly will be more bureaucracy and paperwork and that is something business does not need".

He said: "Once all this is finalised I do wonder how many businesses will take the decision that it is better to conduct our business within the EU than in the UK?"

He said there would be immediate disruption in the short term and supply chain issues but their impact on the economy would be "covered up to some extent by the effects of the vaccine pushing forward some recovery".

Mr Kerfoot said: "Undoubtedly challenging times but given the resilience and strength of character within North Yorkshire I am certain our businesses will simply get on and do what needs to be done."

'Uncertainty, cost and bureaucracy'

A boss at an historic Yorkshire manufacturer says the new post-Brexit arrangements are going to lead to "uncertainty, cost and bureaucracy" for firms that trade with Europe.

Alison Marsh, Finance Director at Sheffield-based Thessco Group, says her firm relies on frictionless trade with Europe as 70 per cent of its raw materials and a similar proportion of its products go to and from the continent.

The firm, which has been manufacturing precious metal alloys at its site in Sheffield since 1760, is one of the world's largest manufacturers of silver brazing alloys, metal joining products and industrial silver alloys.

In the run-up to the transition period ending on December 31, the firm transferred a lot of ita European business to a French subsidiary because of fears of a 'no deal' exit.

Ms Marsh said: "I'm absolutely devastated by the whole thing and it's not being disrespectful to how people voted but a lot of people don't know about international trade and it doesn't affect their daily lives so they have no idea of the implications that it'll cause for day to day supply chains.

"What we're going to see is delays at ports, and a lots of additional costs both in the UK and in the French subsidiary.

"We'll have it both sides so we will have the customs declarations and all the bureaucracy on this side, and then we'll have the customs declarations and all the bureaucracy in France."

Speaking before the transition ended, she said she was working on commercial invoices and was taken aback by the amount of extra information required under new post-Brexit arrangements.

She said: "Everything's got to match that packing list down to if there's an extra paperclip in it. What's in the box has got to be what's on the packing list and that's got to match identically with the invoice.

"This is all new. It was no difference to me selling to Liverpool and to sell into France. It would just go with a normal packing list. And we just send an invoice electronically and that would be it, so there were no checks at customs."

Businesses like hers had to wait until December 24 to find out what they should be preparing for and Ms Marsh said she struggled to find the information she needed on the HMRC website.

She said: "The big things are uncertainty, cost and bureaucracy and for our customers as well it is the uncertainty of supply, because they don't know if things are going to get stuck at ports."