BUSINESS bosses from across the district have received top-level assurances that everything possible is being done to avoid a “cliff edge” Brexit.

Officials from the Government’s Department for International Trade said talks had already taken place with dozens of countries regarding trading arrangements following Britain’s exit from the European Union – and discussions will continue.

The update was given at a meeting with West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce members.

More than 20 businesses were represented.

The event was held by the chamber’s Brexit advisory group.

It was chaired by Andrew Latchmore of Leeds law firm Shulmans, which acted as host.

The meeting was part of a series of roadshows being staged across the country to hear the views of businesses and others with an interest in Brexit, and to outline the present situation.

Mike Cartwright, policy executive for West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “These meetings are proving useful for both sets of attendees.

“The civil servants get to hear direct from businesses about their hopes and concerns, while our members find out just what is happening behind the scenes to advance their interests.

“While it is a very difficult time for the Brexit negotiators, it is also unsettling for business.

“However, businesses should be assured that the chamber will keep that dialogue going between our members and Government representatives to ensure that the business voice continues to be heard and listened to.”

The event was told that the UK is aiming, via a cross-border trade bill, to replicate much of the current EU legislation it benefits from.

“This will be the implementation of so-called ‘grandfather rights’ – where old rules continue to apply despite new arrangements coming into force,” said Mr Cartwight.

“While the International Trade Secretary’s many miles travelled and countries visited have been widely reported in the media, the officials confirmed that countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China and India were all priority targets for free trade agreements.

“Businesses present also pressed for other Commonwealth countries to be included.

“Trade missions – sometimes seen as typical of a bygone age now – could also make a comeback.

“And economic partnership agreements, sometimes described as an initial step towards free trade agreements, already exist between the UK and 29 other countries.”

The chamber is now planning to produce a ‘health-check’ guide to help its members prepare for post-Brexit trading.

Aims of the chamber include working closely with companies to improve performance and ‘championing’ the cause of businesses.

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