Confidence and decisiveness key in post-referendum landscape

The business community needs to pull together for a strong post-EU future said a gathering of leading Lancashire business figures.

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The round table discussion, hosted by PM+M chartered accountants, explored the leave result and how it will affect business decisions and confidence, migrant workers, the regional skills base and how firms can work positively together for a strong future.

Managing partner and head of tax at PM+M, Jane Parry, chaired the event, with guest panellists including Andrew Graham, CEO, Graham and Brown; Mike Damms, chief executive, East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce; and Wayne Wild, commercial director, WEC Group.

Andrew Graham said: “There is bound to be some sort of punishment for leaving the EU, it’s just a case of what it will be. It’s easier for the bigger industries to carry on as they were but not so much for SMEs.

“There’s no point in trying to wind back the clock. We’re at our best when we pull together so let’s do that and make this work.”

Mike Damms said: “We weren’t that surprised by the result as there was a definite shift in views of taking control and long-term democracy. The question now is whether the period we are going through now is just turbulence or will it be a bigger rift?

“Many businesses in Lancashire are still set to do business deals. What a great opportunity that is to show that despite the result, it is business as usual.”

Wayne Wild said: “I was hugely shocked at the result. I didn’t particularly want to vote out, but felt the deal we were getting from the EU meant I felt I had to. But there doesn’t seem to be a plan and that’s why there is so much turmoil.

“We need put our best foot forward, carry on investing and drive our economy forward.”

David Gorton, senior partner at PM+M, said: “Business deal support is going to be hugely challenged and I can see a clear transition in the support we will provide. We need to make sure Lancashire businesses get suitably looked after and not just those in London.”

Tony Brierley, managing director of PM+M Wealth Management, added: “I see this result as short term pain for long term gain. We’re not changing our plans and we still expect to grow so I’m quite positive.”

Jason Kent, managing director of Cobble which makes tufting machines for carpet manufacturers, said: “It’s essential that there is a clear structure put in place and there’s not just a knee-jerk reaction.

“We need confidence and decisiveness. We’ve been through far worse times than this and there are more opportunities ahead. We need to instil confidence in those around us.”

Oliver McCann, employment partner at Napthens Solicitors, said: “We’re now entering a period of uncertainty, of less confidence, and I don’t want fear to rule business decisions and take us in to another recession.

“Confidence is key to the economy and it’s important we continue to be so, go about business as usual and push for investment. The media has to play their part in talking about the good stories that will come.”

Sharon Harrison, relationship director at Barclays, said: “My concern is the backlash and people lobbying for another vote. The decision has been made and we have to make the most of the opportunity that has been presented to us.

“There will be headwinds, but let’s all work together to achieve the best possible results out of the situation we are in. It won’t be easy but we have to maximise the opportunity.”

Mike Berry, finance director at textiles business Panaz, said: “Running a business is about adapting to challenge and I’m up for that. It’s in our hands. The EU has been hard work so we should be pushing the boundaries elsewhere.”

Altaf Khanjra runs Blackburn’s largest cash and carry providing a whole range of products for independent retailers and the catering trade. He said: “It’s now about negotiation and having the right people in place. Consultation needs to take place with businesses and then I’m sure we can do well from the situation, but we have to stay positive and work hard. “The quicker we get to where we want to be and things get sorted, the quicker things can get back to normal.”