BORIS Johnson has been urged by North East business leaders to urgently tackle problems caused by Brexit.

North East England Chamber of Commerce has demanded the Prime Minister acts now to tackle the many challenges faced by the region’s businesses since the UK left the EU.

The Northern Echo:

In the letter, Chamber chief executive James Ramsbotham, set out the full extent of problems from shortage of haulage drivers, confusion over customs declarations and delays in the transport of goods.

The whole picture was laid bare in a Chamber Brexit survey which reported 75 per cent of the region's businesses had been impacted negatively by leaving the EU. These statistics were then corroborated by Government’s own international trade statistics that highlighted a 37 per cent drop in export and import trade.

James Ramsbotham said: “We need the Prime Minister to acknowledge urgently there are serious problems post Brexit which are damaging our companies’ ability to trade with the EU, their largest and nearest marketplace.

"The statistics from our own research and Government show, without question, there is damage being done to our economy by substantial difficulties.”

Among the specific demands from the Chamber are that Government acknowledges the issues that Brexit has caused and continues to cause for businesses.

It urges expansion of the SME Brexit Support Fund to allow companies to continue to upskill staff and obtain the required equipment to complete their new customs responsibilities.

The letter also states the importance of Government acknowledging that its new-found power to diverge from European standards may come at a cost. If Great Britain diverges from European standards too far, then the impact of this will be increased barriers to trade between itself and the EU.

In the Chamber’s view the new Free Trade Agreements can offer opportunities for expansion for businesses in new markets around the world but these deals should be linked to economic strengths in regions such as the North East, including automotive, health and life sciences and chemicals sectors.

This would allow trade and ‘levelling up’ policy to be aligned and ensure that regions such as the North East can benefit the most from these agreements.

The issue of Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) drivers being in critically short supply is currently causing businesses significant hardship. The Chamber want action to increase the attractiveness of the job, the awareness that it is an option for younger workers and address the fundamental obstacle that deters many people from entering the sector, as well as reducing the high cost to obtain an HGV license.

James Ramsbotham said: “Exports are vital to the national economy. They are our national income. Damaging the ability of businesses who create wealth for our nation will make this country so much poorer. To do so when we are striving to recover from the pandemic, with all of its resulting debt, will burden this nation for decades. We encourage the Prime Minister to give this issue his most urgent and personal attention.”