Source: Reuters

Both Labour and Conservative leaders have faced criticism for failing to acknowledge the impact Brexit has had on the economy

The UK must improve its relations with the European Union as the current trade deal is “not working” for businesses, the director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said.

The next government should work on building closer ties with Brussels to boost exports and grow the UK’s economy, said Shevaun Haviland at the annual BCC global conference in London on Thursday.

“We must stop walking on eggshells and start saying it how it is,” Haviland said. “The current plan isn’t working for our members.”

Leaders of the two main parties have faced criticism over recent months for failing to acknowledge the impact Brexit has had on the economy.

The EU is the UK’s largest trading partner, accounting for over 40% of all exports. But these figures have taken a tumble in recent years due to post-Brexit red tape.

In food and drink alone, exports to the EU in Q1 2024 dropped to their lowest levels in 15 years, as per the latest Food & Drink Federation trade report.

“Leaving the EU has made it more expensive and bureaucratic to sell our goods and services across the Channel,” Haviland said.

“But better trading terms are possible if the UK government and the EU reach agreement in areas of mutual benefit for business on both sides. A better deal is best for everyone.”

The food industry has been asking for a veterinary deal between the UK and the EU that would significantly reduce the need for border checks on plant and animal goods, as well as costly export health certificates.

Labour has promised to work on a vet deal with the EU if it gets to power, while the Conservatives have pledged to “take a tough approach” that ensures the EU “are meeting their commitments” and not “discriminating against our exporters”.