To remain in the European single market is overwhelmingly the best protection for our city
As Brexit uncertainty continues to filter from our government’s highest office through to our country’s smallest businesses, it is important to unify in the best interest of business and inform the policies of the Brexit agenda ahead. At the recent British Chamber of Commerce Roundtable where chief executives of 33 Chambers of Commerce came together to agree an immediate and shared strategic approach to Brexit, the outcomes could not have been clearer. It was agreed a transition manifesto will be drawn up to protect areas critical to business in the UK and which directly affect business in Scotland.
In terms of trade, last year Scotland benefited from £16bn a year from Europe and we must continue to communicate that despite the result, Scotland is open for business. This year, Edinburgh retained its position as the top UK location outside London for foreign direct investment, with a record level of investment. Projects were up by 51 per cent and job creation up 52 per cent. To remain in the European Single Market is overwhelmingly the best protection for our city. Here we safeguard our position as a desirable location for inward investment. However, it is highly likely that Westminster will not adhere to the four freedoms so it is therefore our responsibility to lobby for the best access and terms to trade for Scottish businesses.
Another key issue that the Government must address is migrant labour markets. There are many unanswered questions around what happens to EU workers currently in employment in the city and how Scottish businesses can continue to protect and secure these skills now and going forward. Access to talent is critical for our Scottish economy and like London, Scotland relies overwhelmingly on its rich migrant workforce. Scotland could grind to a halt without a robust plan of transition that applies to both immigrant workers and the businesses that employ them. Despite the uncertain outlook, we must capitalise on the opportunities a post-Brexit marketplace presents. For example, low borrowing costs present an opportunity to invest in infrastructure. In doing so we take the opportunity to strengthen our supply chains providing further opportunity for our country’s businesses. Safeguarding of EU funded contracts is still critical in ensuring a smooth a transition is possible. Contracts will need to be guaranteed to 2020 particularly in the area of infrastructure as well as building and scientific contracts. Protection must also be afforded to our city’s research and academic institutions who may no longer lead on European projects.
The Edinburgh Chamber will continue to maintain an open dialogue with members to ensure that we lobby in the best interest of our members. The business landscape of Scotland is critical to that of the UK and we will maintain a strong voice, alongside the British Chambers of Commerce and Scottish Chambers of Commerce to help shape policy and protect trade. Instead of looking at the success of previous models on which to base our own, let’s be guided by the core principles that will most heavily affect our country. From there, we carve out our own model.