Rural communities prepare to seize Brexit opportunities

RURAL communities are preparing to seize the opportunites from Brexit following the UK's decision to to leave the European Union.

Despite ongoing uncertainty in the wake of the referendum on 23 June, the Rural Services Network said it was also important to focus on the potential benefits.

The impact of Brexit was discussed by more than 60 rural community leaders and councillors during a conference at the University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, on 6-7 September.

Organised by the Rural Services Network, the conference addressed the theme "Brexit - Survival of the Fittest – Making the Case for Rural".

    See also: Government urged to maintain vital rural funding

Speakers at the two-day event examined the opportunities and threats as the government prepares for the UK to leave the EU.

Concerns since the vote on 23 June have centred on fears of a recession, reduced investment and doubts over future funding levels for rural businesses and communities.

There is also uncertainty over how the government will balance calls for tighter restrictions on immigration with calls for continued unfettered access to the single market.

Rural Services Network chairman Cecilia Motley said: "All those concerns exist – but equally there is enthusiasm and excitement about the opportunities which Brexit presents."

Councillor Motley said Brexit was an opportunity to devise government policies that were better tailored to the needs of UK rural communities.

In addition, rural tourism had benefited from the fall in the value of sterling, which had made holidaying in the UK more attractive to visitors from overseas.

The drop in sterling had also made UK exports more competitive on the world market.

"Councillor Motley said: "There is a feeling of uncertainty – and there is a recognition that things are changing, but I don't get a feeling of gloom at all."

Dealing with uncertainty and the pace of change was often difficult, but at the same time it was important to focus on finding the best way forward, said Councillor Motley.

Local authorities were determined to continue pressurising central government to ensure that rural communities received the investment necessary as the UK left the EU, she added.

"We will pick our way through this and find the best solution we can."


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