GIVE BORIS A CHANCE TO GET BREXIT DONE

Scottish Daily Mail - - The Brexmas Election - COMMENTARY by Richard Walker MAN­AG­ING DI­REC­TOR, ICE­LAND

BUSI­NESSES have had to put up with three-and-a-half years of un­cer­tainty and delay. Brexit dom­i­nates ev­ery­thing and has pre­vented the Gov­ern­ment from ad­dress­ing other im­por­tant busi­ness, en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial pri­or­i­ties ef­fec­tively.

I hoped last month that Par­lia­ment would end the un­cer­tainty by vot­ing through Boris John­son’s new deal. Sadly, it be­came clear that MPs planned to block the deal from pass­ing and, as a re­sult, Brexit re­mains un­re­solved and con­tin­ues to hang over us. This means that Ice­land and ev­ery other UK busi­ness is strug­gling to make plans on how best to in­vest our re­sources for fu­ture growth, while our cus­tomers are nat­u­rally be­ing care­ful with their money.

We all need this un­cer­tainty to end – and to end quickly.

That’s why I am keen to get Brexit done and move on. The al­ter­na­tive of re­open­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions then hold­ing an­other di­vi­sive and chaotic ref­er­en­dum would be dis­as­trous for both busi­ness and con­sumer con­fi­dence.

There are many is­sues that mat­ter more to me than Brexit, which the Gov­ern­ment could ad­dress once we have taken a firm de­ci­sion on our Euro­pean fu­ture. The cli­mate emer­gency poses a se­ri­ous threat to the very sur­vival of hu­man­ity, and we need to pass and im­ple­ment an En­vi­ron­ment Bill that takes ur­gent ac­tion to cut car­bon emis­sions and plas­tic pol­lu­tion.

We need to ad­dress the scan­dal of food waste – and it may not sur­prise you to learn that I be­lieve that one of the best ways to do this is by buy­ing more frozen food. This not only re­duces wastage through­out the sup­ply chain and in the home, but also saves con­sumers money.

The Bri­tish high street is a vi­tal re­source and we will all be poorer in many ways if we al­low it to wither away. The Gov­ern­ment could help by lev­el­ling the play­ing field so that bricks and mor­tar re­tail­ers can also trade when they want, and by shift­ing a fairer share of the tax bur­den on to on­line busi­nesses through a com­pre­hen­sive re­form of busi­ness rates.

And I would like to see an end to the crip­pling red tape that adds need­less cost and com­plex­ity for busi­ness – such as the mind-bog­gling pur­suit of Ice­land over an al­leged tech­ni­cal in­fringe­ment of the min­i­mum wage rules by set­ting up a sav­ings club for our em­ploy­ees.

ThErE is so much to do and all of it can be de­liv­ered only by clear­ing the log­jam and get­ting Brexit done. Boris John­son’s deal isn’t per­fect, but he clinched it in record time and against all ex­pec­ta­tions, and to my mind it ful­fils the re­sult of the ref­er­en­dum. We must have clo­sure on Brexit and I hope the coun­try de­liv­ers a clear verdict.

I see noth­ing in what we have heard from Labour so far that sug­gests they would either get Brexit done, or cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment in any way friendly to busi­ness.

In­deed, Labour’s Shadow Chan­cel­lor dis­plays an alarm­ing an­i­mos­ity to busi­ness in gen­eral. he has called busi­ness ‘the real en­emy’ and said it’s part of his job de­scrip­tion to over­throw cap­i­tal­ism. Yet the rea­son cap­i­tal­ism and free mar­kets have be­come the dom­i­nant model around the world is that no other sys­tem has suc­ceeded in rais­ing liv­ing stan­dards and pros­per­ity so widely.

Politi­cians of all par­ties need to un­der­stand that ul­ti­mately the fund­ing for the NhS and all the other pub­lic ser­vices we all value de­pends on busi­nesses cre­at­ing jobs, pay­ing salaries, and gen­er­at­ing the prof­its that al­low them to in­vest and pay taxes. Ice­land has paid more than £1.5bil­lion in UK taxes since 2005 and cre­ated 1,000 new jobs a year for the past three years.

We would like to do much more of this – and that de­pends on politi­cians end­ing the cur­rent un­cer­tainty. We need a de­ci­sive, op­ti­mistic leader who be­lieves in this coun­try’s fu­ture.

I am not a mem­ber of any po­lit­i­cal party and I am very con­scious that there is no up­side for a re­tailer in tak­ing sides in pol­i­tics be­cause my col­leagues and cus­tomers have a wide range of views. So the opin­ion I ex­press here is per­sonal rather than cor­po­rate. But I hope for all our sakes that the forth­com­ing elec­tion gives Boris John­son the op­por­tu­nity to get Brexit done in 2020.

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