European Movement UK hosted a Market Access Campaign Webinar with former Business Secretary and Lib Dem Leader, Sir Vince Cable, business owner Ian Clark (Clarkshaws) and EM activists James Ryder (EM Wandsworth & Merton) and Luciana Ponzetta (Swindon for Europe) for the launch of our Market Access campaign.
Members joined us for a Q&A session about the impact that Brexit is having on the economy and on small businesses across the UK.
The webinar was an opportunity to empower our wider network of activist groups to engage with local businesses on the impact of Brexit, produce reports and begin a dialogue with important local and regional stakeholders.
Vince opened the event by speaking about the importance of engaging with business to identify how UK businesses are operating under the new Brexit reality.
“The business sector has not yet seen the most of it,” Cable continued, “as import restrictions are still to come.”
“This is why, to shift the argument,” said Cable, “we need concrete evidence of what’s happening on the ground. Such as this survey, which I’m impressed with.”
Following a Q&A with Cable, James Ryder from our EM group in Wandsworth and Merton presented the findings from their business survey of their local area. They used their Building Bridges funding to conduct a survey of 120 businesses, create a report from the data and launch their findings at an event attended by their MP.
We then heard from Ian Clark of Clarkshaws, a brewing company in Brixton, London, about the difficulties that his small business has faced with Brexit.
The session was then wrapped-up by Luciana Ponzetta, who spoke about how, off the success of EM Wandsworth & Merton’s survey, Swindon for Europe conducted their own survey of local businesses.
“We had engagement from people who voted Remain and Leave,” said Luciana, “and this is vital.”
Why are we running a Market Access campaign?
Businesses have borne the brunt of the fallout from the Withdrawal Agreement. According to the British Chambers of Commerce, 77% of businesses have said that the withdrawal agreement has not helped them to grow, 56% have struggled with new rules around trading goods and 45% with trading services.
Despite the clear evidence that Brexit is hurting our small and medium enterprises, their voices are seldom heard in the debates over the Retained EU Law Bill, the Northern Ireland Protocol and our future relationship with the EU.
Rishi Sunak recently said that Northern Ireland was the most exciting place in the world to invest because it has access to the EU and UK Single Markets, but there was a time, not so long ago, when that applied to the whole UK.
We know that Brexit isn’t working, and our businesses are suffering as a result. As a UK-wide, grassroots movement, European Movement UK has an important role to play in giving small and medium-sized businesses a voice in the growing debate over Brexit’s effects.
What’s next for the Market Access campaign?
We have produced a national level questionnaire for businesses, and this is launching in April 2023.
This questionnaire will ask businesses what they think about the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, and how Brexit has affected their day-to-day business operations.
Our target is to gather at least 1000 responses from businesses. With this data, we can feedback the findings to our wider partners and stakeholders, such as at party conferences.
After this, we will organise a campaign day for the beginning of summer.
You can watch the webinar in full here.
The Building Bridges fund is open to all European Movement UK’s affiliated groups. If you want to learn how your group can take advantage of our Building Bridges fund, contact [email protected].