Governing grinds to a halt as the EU Referendum dominates the Westminster agenda

In late January it became apparent that the EU Referendum, and the debate surrounding it, would have wider implications for domestic UK politics. This is evidenced by the fact the Government has yet again delayed the decision on aviation expansion in the South East, even after the Davies Commission recommended the expansion of Heathrow back in June 2015.

Since David Cameron’s agreement with his EU counterparts and subsequent announcement of the referendum, now scheduled to take place on June 23rd, other key policy decisions have also taken a back seat and will likely be deferred until after the referendum, these include; trident renewal; the future of the BBC; human rights legislation as well pensions and Freedom of Information.

However, other more pertinent policy areas have been impacted that are of critical importance to businesses. For example businesses, particularly SMEs, the backbone of the UK economy, have repeatedly raised concerns over HMRC to deliver an effective and efficient service. This will be impacted still further now that HMRC are focusing their time on determining the consequence of a potential UK exit from the European Union, and the likely result on their ability to serve the business community.

Furthermore with Government ministers scrambling for media attention to air their views on the EU debate, it raises the question whether other issues relevant to businesses will get the attention they rightly deserve. For example, will skills shortages, the national living wage, and dividend tax hikes, not to mention the over-burdensome cost of doing business?

With aviation expansion already being delayed, what other critical infrastructure projects – some of which may be controversial – will take a back burner as MPs seek to placate the electorate ahead of the crucial vote on June 23rd? This comes at a time when the UK, already ranked 27th in the latest World Economic Forum’s Quality of Overall Infrastructure report. Clearly highlighting that Government cannot postpone delivery of critical national infrastructure projects any longer.

Given the Chancellor’s warning in early January of a “cocktail of risk that threaten the global economy”, the Government would be wise to pay heed to his words and get on with the business of governing in the interest of the nation and the businesses that we as a Chamber are here represent.

I fear that failure to give the above issues the attention they deserve over the coming months leading up the EU Referendum could ultimately have an adverse effect on the UK. Politicians cannot and should not ignore the needs of the business community. 

Author Simon Dishman, Policy Executive

Posted by: Northamptonshire Chamber

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