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Industry sets out post-election priorities

Retailers and suppliers have called for stability and pro-business measures from the new government after the general election ended in a hung parliament.

After failing to win an outright majority, the Conservatives are preparing to form a minority government with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Theresa May said the coalition will allow the UK to “come together as a country and channel our energies towards a successful Brexit deal that works for everyone”.

However, business leaders have expressed concern about the outcome of the election, and said their priorities are stability, clarity on Brexit and economic certainty.

“We need decisive strategies that are exercised and delivered well,” said Ray Kelvin, Ted Baker founder and chief executive.

“I stick to what I do and I do it right, and I want the government to do the same.”

Peter Ruis, chief executive of Jigsaw, said: “This government may not last long for obvious reasons, so it is probably not the time to be making new demands. We remain consistent in our wish for tariff-free access to the single market, access to skilled European labour and a revision of the business rates system.”

The managing director of one womenswear multiple agreed, saying the government’s tenuous position could hold it back from helping businesses: “We really need clarity, certainty and confidence as we go through the Brexit process – sadly, I don’t think this election result is going to help provide any of that.”

The economic impact was of particular concern for suppliers, especially in relation to the drop in the value of sterling and striking a Brexit deal.

Berwin & Berwin managing director Simon Berwin said: “We were walking through treacle as it was and now there is more uncertainty. It will make Brexit negotiations 10 times harder as they haven’t got the strength or authority to do it.”

“The result will make business – which is already difficult – even more difficult,” he added. “It’s one of the saddest political days I’ve seen in the last 25 years.”

Gifi Fields, founder of supplier Coppernob, set out priorities for the industry: “Critically, we need more certainty on trade relations – at this rate, in 21 months we still won’t have trade agreements in place with the European Union or anywhere in the world outside the WTO [World Trade Organization]. It’s not a good place to be at.”

Meanwhile, independent retailers, many of which are already struggling with rising costs, called on the government to be aware of the impact on small businesses.

Deryane Tadd, owner of The Dressing Room in St Albans, said: “Our business rates have gone up this year and, at the moment, all the costs are rising with things like pensions as well. We’re looking for more support.”

William Coe, managing director of Coes department store chain, was worried about contingency planning: “You can deal with most things if you have certainty, but at the moment you’ve just got no path.”

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