How is Brexit affecting businesses in Sussex?

Businesses across Sussex have called for an end to uncertainty following the UK's vote to leave the European Union.

Monday, 11th July 2016, 3:12 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 12:46 am

Some firms have blamed Brexit for lost contracts and even closures – but the general trend has shown businesses to be keen to adapt and carry on.

Sussex Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ana Christie said the main concern for members was the impact on the export markets, as any trade deals have yet to be laid out.

She said: “We all want answers from Government. We need them to provide that stability. It’s not just about Brexit, we still need to make decisions on airports, funding, the stock exchange, the level of skills.”

Ana Christie, Sussex Chamber of Commerce chief executive. SUS-161002-143127001

Among the losses attributed to Brexit was a shock decision by TV chef Rick Stein to pull out of a multi-million pound restaurant development on Eastbourne’s seafront last week, just a day before the deal was due to be signed.

In Chichester, restaurant Amelie and Friends announced it was closing at the end of July due to the ‘Brexit effect’, but other independent restaurants in the area reported no such downturn.

Co-manager Andrew Cohen said: “The restaurant was profitable and we were very positive about the future, we had a record-breaking month’s trade in June, but as soon as the vote result was announced, the number of bookings has reduced to about half the level we would expect at this time of year.

“We do not know how long the Brexit effect will last for, but because it was time to renew our five-year lease, we had to make a judgement about the future and take a very quick decision.”

Restaurateur Andy Sparsis.

A petition to Chichester MP Andrew Tyrie has been started in an effort to keep the restaurant from closing.

Owner of Worthing’s Proto Restaurant Group Andy Sparsis said the main impact on restaurants would most likely be any change in employment legislation, as 50 per cent of workers in hotels, restaurants and bars are foreign nationals.

“We employ, in our restaurant group, 120 people and at least 80 of them are Eastern European,” he said. “I think we need to send the right message out, that we are open to Europeans, that they are welcome here. We thrive on the diversity of other cultures in Worthing.”

Some members of the Horsham-based Women in Business group were also interested as to whether employment terms would change if EU law were dropped and if EU funding schemes would continue.

Amelie and Friends, an independant restaurant in Chichester, has announced it will be closing at the end of July because of a reduction in bookings since the Brexit vote.

Gatwick Diamond CEO Jeremy Taylor said that while there was a ‘very real impact’ on business, the turmoil ‘will settle down’.

He said: “So far, I think there’s nervousness and caution and concern as to what it means for business. While (businesses in Sussex) are mostly not actually trading in the European market and overseas markets, supply chains to bigger businesses will be affected by it.

“I think what we really need is to have some certainty. What I’ve said before and others will agree with me, is that we’d rather Cameron had stayed on and left Boris and Gove to negotiate the details.

“I think Cameron stepping down exacerbated the problem.”