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'We've had enough of the uncertainty' - Brexit staff exodus sees restaurants close

PUBLISHED: 06:30 18 September 2019

Michael Chapman and Koyas Miah have been appointed as Brexit business advisers to help guide Suffolk firms. Picture: SUFFOLK CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Michael Chapman and Koyas Miah have been appointed as Brexit business advisers to help guide Suffolk firms. Picture: SUFFOLK CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

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A Brexit-related exodus of EU workers from Suffolk has seen restaurants close, business advisors warned today.

The  advisors said uncertainty over Brexit was the biggest concern for businesses Picture: GETTYIMAGESThe advisors said uncertainty over Brexit was the biggest concern for businesses Picture: GETTYIMAGES

Koyas Miah and Michael Chapman have been working as Brexit advisors at the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce for two months helping prepare businesses for the impact of Britain's departure from the EU.

While the advisors said most challenges could be met through proper planning, they have also encountered businesses forced to close because of staff shortages.

Mr Miah, who ran a business supplying restaurants before a career in banking, said: "Many businesses are finding that staff are going back to their home countries for various reasons, including uncertainty around Brexit and the weak sterling.

Mr Miah said he knew of at least three restaurants to have closed due to the staffing uncertainties.

He said the care sector faced similar staffing concerns, with some companies paying bonuses to retain EU workers.

Mr Chapman, a former policy expert at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, said ending the uncertainty around Brexit was the biggest priority.

"It doesn't matter how - they just want it ended," he said. "That's been the key message - 'we've had enough."

An exodis of EU workers has led to the closure of restaurants Picture: GETTYIMAGESAn exodis of EU workers has led to the closure of restaurants Picture: GETTYIMAGES

Although Mr Chapman said some businesses had "buried their head in the sand" over Brexit, he added that most in Suffolk seemed resilient.

The advisors have met with around 40 businesses so far.

Mr Chapman said that while different sectors faced specific issues on Brexit, the "broad themes" tended to be around workforce, regulations, customs and VAT.

Some of the sectors most affected by changes to international trade, such as logistics and haulage, also play a big role in Suffolk's economy due to the importance of the Port of Felixstowe.

Mr Chapman said Felixstowe, which deals with freight arriving from and travelling to ports outside Europe, would be relatively unaffected.

Many smaller businesses, however, would have to get used to new ways of working.

"We know there's likely to be some disruption," he said. "Things don't always go to plan, but the steps businesses can take are reasonably simple - even if it involves taking a leap of faith."

The care sector has also been hit by workforce uncertainty Picutre: GETTYIMAGESThe care sector has also been hit by workforce uncertainty Picutre: GETTYIMAGES

-Contact the 'Brexit Business Hotline' on 01473 694803 to find out how the advisors could help your business

Essex authorities warn uncertainties could disrupt services

A no-deal Brexit in Essex could interrupt council services, make households poorer and lead to abuse against staff, an impact assessment warned.

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Essex County Council's 'No deal Brexit Summary" details potential issues affecting its operations if Britain departs from the EU without a deal.

Felixstowe Port, which deals with freight from outside EU, is said to be relatively unaffected by Brexit Picture: Ed Taylor, r_e_d_r_o_c_k_e_tFelixstowe Port, which deals with freight from outside EU, is said to be relatively unaffected by Brexit Picture: Ed Taylor, r_e_d_r_o_c_k_e_t

While the council said it had not identified "significant risks" in the immediate aftermath of Brexit the report said "we do have uncertainties due to the complexity of the supply chain".

Disruption to supply chains may interrupt some of its services and "pressures on pricing" - but the council said stockpiling was not necessary.

The council also said its tax revenue could fall if households became poorer.

Changes to product certifications and labelling would likely impact on Trading Standards teams, the report said, as more people would seek advice.

The council noted that travel disruption after Brexit could lead to increased staff absence. It also said a "discordant Brexit" could see an increase in staff abuse due to their perceived immigrant status .

It said the Essex Resilience Forum was working to help Stansted airport and Harwich port prepare.

Tendring District Council has not released its impact assessment, saying it was "sensitive" but added that it was working with partners through the Essex Resilience Forum to look at challenges and opportunities from Brexit. TDC lead member for EU Exit, Mary Newton, said the council had received £325,000from government to support preparations including road access should Harwich port be required to cater for increased freight traffic

Preparations have been made for if Harwich port be required to cater for increased freight traffic Picture: ANDREW PARTRIDGEPreparations have been made for if Harwich port be required to cater for increased freight traffic Picture: ANDREW PARTRIDGE

Suffolk councils working 'behind the scenes' to prepare

Suffolk authorities have so far refused to disclose details of their Brexit impact assessments.

The Suffolk Resilience Forum, which includes councils, emergency services and private sector organisations, has been working on plans to cope with a no-deal Brexit but has not released any documents.

As reported last week, the forum has still to decide whether it will release its assessment.

Forum chairman Simon Megicks said a responsible resilience forum must plan for every eventuality, including worst-case scenarios.

Mr Megicks said there was no intelligence to suggest a rise in crime or disorder and no need for people to act differently of change consumer habits.

Suffolk County Council, which is a member of the resilience forum, said a great deal of activity was being done behind the scenes to ensure the region is well placed to deal with Brexit.

SCC's deputy chief executive Chris Bally said that as well as looking to minimise risk, authorities were also working to "maximise opportunities" from Brexit.

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