Richmond Park News: 18 February 2022
IMPACT OF BREXIT ON UK TRADE
On Wednesday the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) published research surveying more than 1,000 British businesses on the impact of Brexit on the UK’s trade with Europe. The researchers found that 71% of exporters say the EU trade deal is not enabling them to grow or increase sales, while only one in eight exporters thinks it is helping them grow or increase sales. The majority of surveyed respondents think Brexit has pushed up costs, increased paperwork and delays, and put the UK at a competitive disadvantage.
To me this is a clear statement from businesses that the new trading arrangements are just not good enough for British businesses. I am also really concerned that the Government is not listening or responding supportively to business concerns. As the cost of living crisis grows we need far more government action. This should begin with relaunching the SME Brexit Support fund which was used – sparingly – last year.
RAIL AND TFL FARE INCREASE
The Liberal Democrats have recently been looking into annual season ticket rises for London rail commuters. In some commuter areas fares will go up by £200, a 3.8% hike. It is unacceptable to have such a rise not only in the middle of a cost of living crisis, but also as train companies continue to run patchy timetables. Commuters will quite rightly be wondering what they are actually paying for.
On Monday it was announced that TfL fares will also rise by an average of 4.8% from March 1st, creating an added burden for passengers. Given the enormous financial pressure on TfL and the unwillingness of the Government to be more supportive, this was sadly inevitable.
These fare increases highlight, once again, the extent to which the Government needs to get a grip on the cost of living crisis. Hard pressed families are already struggling to balance the books; adding hundreds of pounds more in transport costs will come as a devastating blow. Freezing rail fares would be a pro-commuter and pro-business move as the country recovers from the pandemic.
RECYCLABILITY OF COVID PLASTIC
A recent study found that 8 million tonnes of pandemic plastic waste has been generated worldwide. With that in mind, I recently submitted a Parliamentary Question to the Department for Health asking what steps they are taking to improve the recyclability of Covid-19 testing equipment and disposable PPE. I was encouraged to hear that Test and Trace is exploring alternative testing equipment made from predominantly recyclable or biodegradable materials. I was also informed that the department is reviewing whether face masks could be turned into curtains or bedsheets. I was pleased to see a number of media outlets pick this up as I believe we must be more mindful about this.
SUPPORTING CRAFT BREWERS
This week I sent a letter to the Treasury, co-signed by all of my fellow Liberal Democrat MPs, calling on the them to consider the impact of alcohol duty reforms on small domestic producers. We welcomed the reforms introduced in the Autumn budget in principle, but smaller independent craft breweries and artisanal spirit makers cannot take advantage of them. Cuts to duty only apply to barrels of over 40 litres, while many independent breweries use 30 litre barrels. I feel this policy treats smaller businesses unfairly. You can see my letter about it here.