Feedback from the diverse array of businesses that make up the membership of Chambers across the UK confirms that while getting a good Brexit deal is vital, it is not the only challenge facing the UK economy. Indeed, many of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the UK economy have little or nothing to do with the UK’s departure from the European Union. The best Brexit deal imaginable won’t sustain our competitiveness if the fundamentals for growth aren’t right here at home. Productivity, skills, and connectivity – all long-standing challenges for the UK – must be improved to enable businesses to drive our success through Brexit and beyond.
The ‘business as usual’ approach which has characterised recent fiscal events is no longer sufficient in the face of a sluggish economy and continued Brexit uncertainty. Therefore, the BCC believes that the focus of the Autumn Budget 2018 must be on radical measures to bolster business investment, competitiveness and productivity in the face of Brexit headwinds – without which business communities across the UK will be ill-equipped to overcome the significant period of change that lies ahead.
The British Chambers of Commerce have proposed action in seven key areas:
- An exceptional ‘Brexit Investment Incentive’ – with the Annual Investment Allowance boosted to £1m to ‘crowd in’ both domestic and international investment – and stem the weakening in business investment in the face of Brexit uncertainty.
- Introduce a Business Rates Investment Incentive – ease the drag effect of this uniquely iniquitous business tax on investment by providing a 12-month delay before rates are increased when an existing property is expanded or improved and also before rates apply to a new build property.
- A commitment to no new taxes or costs on businesses for the remainder of this parliament – giving businesses the headroom to adjust to Brexit and to invest, recruit and grow.
- Deliver real UK-wide reform to the apprenticeship levy and drop SME co-funding for apprenticeships in England – to ensure that the training system works for everyone and eases the UK’s chronic skills shortage.
- Delay the roll-out of Making Tax Digital for all businesses by one year – to provide HMRC and businesses with the headroom to prepare for this major change to the way tax is collected.
- Abandon the uprating of business rates for the next two financial years for all businesses on the high street in town and city centres – to ease the financial burden on struggling businesses as they go through significant structural changes.
- Provide the funding needed to achieve full mobile coverage along transport corridors (road and rail) – a crucial step to improving digital connectivity and productivity for businesses that need to communicate with new and existing customers, suppliers and employees.
If these targeted, affordable measures are delivered it would drive greater investment in people, property, infrastructure and capital, lifting both UK growth and productivity.