Commenting on the House of Lords European Affairs Committee’s report, The future UK-EU relationship, published on 29 April, East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said: “As a Centre of Trading Excellence that is a powerhouse for manufacturing innovative goods distributed across the world, the East Midlands economy heavily relies on having positive trading relationships with our international partners – no more so than with the EU, our nearest export market.
“Therefore, it’s promising to see the publication of a landmark report that acknowledges how UK-EU relations and trading have been far from ideal in the past few years – reflecting what our members keep telling us – and delivers a series of recommendations to reset the approach in how we work together.
“In particular, we welcome clear and well-evidenced proposals for reform of access to the labour market for our employers, which have been battling acute skills shortages for a long time now.
“Our latest Quarterly Economic Survey, which formed part of the British Chambers of Commerce’s research that was submitted to the committee, shows that six in 10 East Midlands businesses attempted to recruit in the first three months of this year and, of those, 73% faced problems in filling roles.
“Industries like manufacturing, construction, logistics, hospitality and care continue to face huge capacity constraints caused by one of the tightest labour pools we’ve ever witnessed.
“We need a fast, efficient and affordable system to access skills from outside the UK when we can’t recruit and train locally.
“As we have set out in our Business Manifesto for Growth, the Shortage Occupations List is a key tool to do this but it must be expanded to reflect the reality on the ground.
“UK firms are also hampered when it comes to travelling to Europe due to the lack of flexibility in some of the business travel and mobility rules in the Brexit deal, especially in relation to financial, professional and business services.
“We urge the UK Government to respond decisively to these findings, so that firms can have the confidence in access to the skilled workers they need to grow their businesses and get economic growth moving.”