Perpetual arguments about Brexit spit forth on social-media often creating more heat than light. So The Totnes Pulse are trying a pragmatic approach to the discussion by asking 4 local businesses the same questions to see what they have to say – with limited success! If you also own a local business, have your say in the comments section below…
Who did we speak to?
Guy Singh-Watson. Local farmer and founder of Riverford Farms
Bianco e Massimo. The Italian owners of a new restaurant in town.
Alan Carter. Owner of long established fashion shop, Fusion.
??????. We also spoke to the only Pro-Brexit business we could find but unfortunately they later chose not to be included in this article
Question 1: How has Brexit affected you up to now?
Guy Singh-Watson is not at all happy. “The uncertainty and distraction are the main things. All investments are on hold, access to east european labour which all horticulture is dependant on, has become difficult. The exchange rates have been exceedingly problematic. We buy about 20% of what goes into our boxes from european produce and the currency fluctuations are wiping out our extremely narrow margins.”
Alan Carter says his costs have been severely affected. “Almost all things in here are european brands – Carhartt is Germany, Element and Volcom are both France… costs have gone up between 10 and 15% purely through currency exchange rates.” Has this damaged sales? Surprisingly not. “I’ve had more people coming in wanting to ‘keep it local’ rather than using the internet or going to Exeter. People seem to want to support independant local shops“
Massimo e Bianca : “We opened very recently and Brexit was fully underway when we started so no the vote and what has happened since has no effect on what we are doing here. Not yet anyway.“
Q2.(a) What happens if we STAY in the EU?
Guy Singh-Watson sounds like he would be relieved but grieves the wasted effort over the last 2 years worring about brexit that should have been used to combat even more serious concerns. “It’s the cost of distraction from things like climate change, inequality, overuse of plastics. Things that society needs to function properly”
Alan Carter “I think the pound will shoot up by 10 to 20% and that will drop my prices that I’d be delighted to pass on to my customers.” Alans wife owns the perfume shop. One of her main french suppliers has already closed its UK warehouse due to Brexit. This has increased costs. “They won’t come back, that damage is irreversible“
Massimo e Bianca “Great! We carry on as we are and business can get on with what they do.“
Q2.(b) What if the UK goes with Theresa Mays ‘deal’?
Guy Singh-Watson: “At least we will have a better idea of what’s happening. Lorries could cross the channel and we can get back to business. But the reality is that Brexit will roll on for at least another 4 years before things are settled which is still devastating to business.”
Alan Carter: “I really don’t know. I’m not a politician and I don’t know what the results of her brexit will be. I voted to stay purely because the one thing I did know is that my prices would be forced up to be honest with you!”
Massimo et Bianca: “It’s a mess isn’t it? I don’t think they know what they are doing any more than we do. We are Italian and signed up to get updates from the official government agency. In the latest bulletin they stopped talking about a deal altogether and are now only talking about a ‘no deal’ which is very worrying”
Q2.(c) What happens with a ‘No Deal’?
Guy Singh-Watson: “That would just be bloody catastrophic!” Guy relates the issue of lorries unable to cross the border into the UK. “In April 40% of our box produce comes from the EU and it would just stop. We work on 2% margins and a 4 day delay wipes out our profit for a full year.” Guy dismisses government claims of ‘trucks waved through’ pointing out that lorries will block up both sides anyway. “Just complete and utter disaster.“
Alan Carter: “That terrifies me!” Alan has a house he rents out in Spain. “I really don’t know what will happen. It scares me, a hard Brexit scares me. I think we’re stronger together.”
Massimo e Bianca: “Trading will probably revert to American standards and where food is concerned, these standards are much lower. We source only organic foods and some of it comes from Europe so prices will increase. There is no question about that. As Italians we don’t yet know what this will mean for us. The government are saying earnings have to be above £30,000 for us to be able to stay for example.”
Q3. Do you agree with Sarah Wollastons call for a Peoples Vote?
Guy Singh-Watson has never voted Conservative in his life and appears to be furious about “lies” told by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove; “Democracy depends on people being well informed. Yes, I do agree to a 2nd vote. 6 months ago I was prepared to carry on with Brexit but now, yes, I’ve changed my mind.“
Alan Carter likes Sarah Wollaston. “I really like her opinion. There should be a 2nd referendum purely because the Brexit campaign lied. A lot of people didn’t realise how it would affect them. On the other hand I reckon Jean-Claude Juncker has got peoples backs up to the extent that I know some remainers have swung over leavers!”
Massimo e Bianca unsuprisingly want to have a 2nd vote. “The politicians lied the first time. It can’t be democratic if people make decisions based on fake news. Now everyone knows what is involved, of course we should have another vote.“
It is unfortunate that this article appears to be very one-sided and possible un-balanced. Is this because the vast majority of businesses are against Brexit or is it that pro-Brexit businesses are unwilling to talk? It is understandable that public facing businesses may feel uncomfortable about being open about such a devisive subject. We contacted several other businesses who were unwilling to go on the record with their views fearing the effect locally with customers.
Do you have a local business? What are your answers to those questions above?