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This week, NFDA attended the Annual Labour Party Conference in Brighton. With a number of meetings and events, the Conference provided NFDA with an ideal opportunity to continue to engage with parliamentarians and the official opposition and discuss key issues facing the automotive retail sector, as well as to understand Labour’s policy positions on areas such as Brexit and air quality.
NFDA had a very constructive meeting with Rachael Maskell MP – Shadow Transport Minister. Rachael Maskell said that Brexit was a ‘mess’ and is affecting businesses and consumer confidence. Looking at the automotive sector, she said that Government does not have a strategy in place for encouraging motorists to switch to electric vehicles or other sustainable fuel types. Sue Robinson, NFDA Director, highlighted to Rachel Maskell that there needed to be more promotion of hybrid vehicles, the MP agreed.
Maskell said that “Government has stepped back from its responsibilities” and is pushing the industry to do the work in regards to diesel and air quality. Overall, she believes transport policy must be well coordinated to achieve its end goal.
Sue Robinson informed the MP about the recruitment issue facing the industry and mentioned the NFDA’s new “Get My First Job” initiative to help solve this problem. This was received positively by Maskell who requested to be kept up to date.
Katy Recina, NFDA Government Affairs Officer, also highlighted the skilled technicians’ shortage which is currently affecting the commercial vehicle sector and the need for access to skilled technicians post Brexit. Maskell, took note and said that the UK was too ‘hung up on terms such as the Single Market and Customs Union’ and ‘should instead be focusing on building confidence back in industry and looking at how we are going to move forward’ and develop jobs. Business and consumers need security.
Finally, Sue Robinson explained that any rise in costs will be likely to impact consumers, the MP agreed and said this was also made worse by the stagnation in wages.
KEY FRINGE EVENTS
SMMT Breakfast Roundtable
Sue Robinson, NFDA Director, attended the SMMT Breakfast Roundtable alongside MPs, manufacturers and other stakeholders.
The View from the EU: What does Europe think of Brexit? – Attended by NFDA, held by Labour in Europe and the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament.
In particular, Sir Keir Starmer MP, Shadow Brexit Secretary, stated that he is pleased that May had agreed with Labour’s position, declared over the Summer, that the UK needs a transitional arrangement. “We need a degree of certainty and [to] know the basis”, he added. He said that May’s Florence speech was a good start but it was “just a start”. He also pointed out that access to the Single Market and Customs Union will be required during the transitional period. “I fundamentally reject that, I think if we work hard we can do better than that”, he said.
He insisted that Labour’s priority was jobs and the economy, and that UK’s future with Europe should be collaborative and based on its shared history, principles and values. “This is what Labour are trying to achieve”. Finally, Starmer commented that Europe seems stronger post Brexit, but the elections in Germany remind us that there are still changes going on across Europe.