MP’s Column - Can’t take our eye off the ball

During the referendum campaign the public were treated to a series of outrageous claims of what would happen if Brexit won.

Unemployment, we were told, would increase by at least half a million. Instead, unemployment is at its lowest point for nearly half a century, with employment up more than 3 million on 2010 figures.

We were told the economy would shrink by between 3.6 and 6 per cent within two years, but in fact the economy is now 3.2 per cent larger than it was at the time of the referendum.

Despite the predictions of doom, the country’s economy has been doing pretty well, though we should be doing more to make it better.

I have constantly been writing to officials and ministers arguing for a better roll-out of broadband across rural areas like our own.

Access to high speed internet is incredibly important for unlocking the economic potential of England.

It used to be that if you needed something you planned a trip to the shops, but now we order so much online and expect to wait a few days for something to turn up in the post.

This transformation has destabilised certain markets but also provided many opportunities for consumers, putting us in the driving seat.

But it also means that it’s easier to run a business from parts of England like Lincolnshire instead of sticking to the urban centres.

Here in the East Midlands, our businesses have been cranking up their exports.

The latest figures that I’ve seen show that in the year leading up to September 2018, over £21 billion in goods and services was exported from the East Midlands.

The total value of UK exports for the same period was over £335 billion – four per cent higher than the same period last year.

The professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers now predicts that the United Kingdom could become the fastest growing economy in the G7 group of nations between now and 2050.

Forbes magazine has declared Britain is the best country for business in 2018.

The trend, then, is good, but that doesn’t mean we can take our eye off the ball.

I already mentioned rural broadband, but pubs are important local businesses as well as fundamental to many of our villages and towns.

The Government has launched a £3.6 million programme to help communities to own their local.

Perhaps most importantly, the freeze on increasing the duty on beer, cider, and spirits has been renewed for yet another year.

In 2017 the Government provided a £1,000 discount on business rates for pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000 – more than 90 per cent of pubs in England. This has now been extended for another year.

Other small businesses are benefiting as well.

Rates relief recently announced by the Treasury will be worth nearly £900 million to retailers and we expect this will create savings of up to £8,000 for up to 90 per cent of independent shops, pubs, restaurants, and cafes.

Sir Edward Leigh

Gainsborough Constituency