"The retail industry’s biggest priority is to work alongside the Government to secure a fair Brexit for consumers"

"The retail industry’s biggest priority is to work alongside the Government to secure a fair Brexit for consumers"

The British retail industry has welcomed yesterday's Queen's Speech and its implications for the sector, in particular its focus on Britain's exit from the European Union (EU).

The Queen yesterday (22 June) outlined the Government's new legislative agenda with 27 bills, of which eight relate to Brexit and its impact on trade and immigration, and a number of draft bills.

"My government's priority is to secure the best possible deal as the country leaves the European Union," she told Lords and Members of the House of Commons. "My ministers are committed to working with Parliament, the devolved administrations, business and others to build the widest possible consensus on the country's future outside the European Union.

"My government will seek to maintain a deep and special partnership with European allies and to forge new trading relationships across the globe. New bills on trade and customs will help to implement an independent trade policy, and support will be given to help British businesses export to markets around the world."

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), praised the focus on Brexit in the speech.

"In very uncertain times, retailers will be encouraged that the Government is seeking to reach out to business.

"It's right to focus on Brexit. The retail industry's biggest priority is to work alongside the Government to secure a fair Brexit for consumers. This means ensuring ordinary shoppers aren't hit with the cost of unwanted new tariffs and the UK is able to build new trading relationships with the rest of the world in the long-term. In particular, we will seek to work with the Government on the new Trade Bill, which will help in the development of international trade relationships and the Immigration Bill."

Dickinson highlighted the importance of retail employers being able to secure their current workforce and fill vacancies in the future.

"To do this, the Government must secure the rights of EU nationals living and working in the UK at the earliest possible opportunity during the withdrawal negotiations with the EU."

She also acknowledged that retailers have supported the introduction of the national living wage, but said further increases "must be moderate, taking into account broader economic conditions." She added that "reforming the technical skills system is a welcome step in tackling the UK's skills shortages."

Dickinson, however, noted the absence in the speech of any movement on the existing business rates system.

"It is essential the Government conducts a full review of the business rates system and puts in place a system for the 21st century that does not pit online against offline or large against small. We will seek to work with the Government to look again at the Business Tax Road Map to ensure fairness and incentivise growth and investment."