BOOSTING business confidence and avoiding a no-deal Brexit need to be at the heart of party manifestos in the General Election, says the West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce.

The business support organisation has been working with its national network, the British Chambers of Commerce, which has set out a series of priorities it says need acting on by the next government.

BCC has received input from most of its 53 accredited local and regional Chambers, including West & North Yorkshire. As well as avoiding a no-deal Brexit, The Chamber also says that action on infrastructure, immigration, skills and business costs must be front-and-centre of the Parliamentary agenda.

Bradford Chamber President, Suzanne Watson, said: “We cannot afford to allow our infrastructure to fray, or for gaping holes in our training and skills system to go unfilled. To continue piling on new costs is stopping firms from investing in growth.

"The next government needs to address these and other issues highlighted in our report in order to give us stability and confidence. The contribution of businesses to our communities and prosperity needs to be recognised.”

Nick Garthwaite, Chair of West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Parliament has not exactly covered itself in glory since the referendum three and a half years ago. We are all now seeing the consequences of that failure to reach and end-game on Brexit.

"The damage, locally, nationally and internationally, is significant and so the next government has a big job to do. We’re more than willing to do our bit and assist with that, but decision-makers and policy-makers need to step up to the plate too.”

Key business priorities for the next administration are:

On Brexit:

  • Avoid a messy and disorderly exit from the European Union. Ensure the smoothest possible shift from a transition period to the future UK-European Union relationship. Introduce a temporary SME Brexit tax credit to support businesses that need to undertake specific activity to adjust to changes in trading conditions.

On people:

  • Introduce a simple and flexible new immigration system that minimises the administrative burden on businesses and allows access to all skill levels – including temporary, seasonal and permanent roles – with recognition of professional qualifications.
  • Increase funding for apprenticeships to ensure SMEs can access training, at all skill levels, in their local area and reform the Apprenticeship Levy in England to allow businesses to use all forms of accredited training.

On business investment and costs:

  • Launch a business-led review of the business rates system in England and Wales, and work with the Scottish government to co-ordinate these reforms to provide a level playing field.
  • Extend the £1 million Annual Investment Allowance for a further two years and widen its scope.

On infrastructure:

  • Raise public investment in infrastructure to at least 1.4 per cent of GDP per year – exceeding the funding guideline of 1.2 per cent recommended by the National Infrastructure Commission.
  • Complete the legal frameworks for all phases of HS2; deliver promised investment in Northern Powerhouse Rail; and proceed to deliver a UK-wide high-speed rail network as soon as possible.

On international trade:

  • Ensure continuity of trading conditions with third countries so that businesses can continue to benefit from the levels of market access that they have had under European Union free trade agreements.
  • Secure the future of the UK-European Union trading relationship, minimising cross-border trade frictions and avoiding a hard border with Ireland.