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British Chambers of Commerce calls for Brexit tax credits for SMEs in manifesto goals

Ben Gartside
Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce at its annual conference in London earlier this year. Photo: Peter Nicholls/Reuters

The British Chambers of Commerce, one of Britain’s key business groups, has set out its goals of what it would like to see in the manifestos of political parties for the 12 December general election.

Avoiding no-deal Brexit is among the topmost demand in the BCC report ‘2020 and beyond: business priorities for the next UK government’. It also calls for a temporary tax credit for small businesses to mitigate changes in trading conditions due to Brexit.

On Brexit, the report favours “the smoothest possible shift from a transition period to the future UK-European Union relationship”, and advocates a temporary tax credit for small businesses to mitigate changes in trading conditions.

The BCC also called for government action on infrastructure, immigration, skills and business costs.

It also urged for continued trading relationships with existing “third countries” who trade with Britain via a trade agreement with the EU, and the minimisation of friction between Ireland and UK, avoiding a hard border.

Around business policy, the BCC said it would like to see the extension and widening of the annual investment allowance, a business-led review of the business rates system in England and Wales, and increased funding for apprenticeships to ensure small and medium enterprises can access training, at all skill levels, in their local area.

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On immigration, the BCC advocate 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.”

The report also asks for a raise in public investment to at least 1.4% of GDP per year – exceeding the funding guideline of 1.2% recommended by the National Infrastructure Commission.

The BCC is eager to see changes to rail infrastructure, with the completion of the legal frameworks for all phases of HS2, investment in Northern Powerhouse Rail and “UK-wide high-speed rail network as soon as possible”, marking them as priority areas.

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BCC’s director general Adam Marshall said: “The message from business communities all over the UK couldn’t be clearer: the next government must deliver an end to the Brexit stalemate and take decisive steps to improve the business environment here at home.

“To say business leaders are angry and frustrated would be putting it mildly. They are doing their bit for the country – and think it is high time politicians do their bit too.

“We cannot afford to allow our infrastructure to fray, for the gaping holes in our training and skills system to go unfilled, or for governments to pile on new costs that stop firms from investing in growth.”

He said businesspeople should never be seen as enemies of of progress and the government should not get distracted from delivering the conditions needed for growth, jobs and prosperity.

“Millions of businesspeople across the UK pay their taxes diligently, and care deeply about their communities and the environment.

"Our proposals would help an incoming administration reignite business confidence and investment – and would pay lasting dividends for our communities and the UK economy,” Marshall said.

The BBC report was compiled with the input of 53 accredited Chambers of Commerce across the UK, and the views of its growing international network.