Euro mission aims to extend influence
BUSINESSES descended on Brussels to lobby the European Parliament on key issues including energy, environment, employment regulation and finance.
Seven firms from the region joined the North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce at the European Parliament of Enterprises event last week.
They met MEPs and policy makers as well as exploring how to access EU funding and bid for EU contracts.
More than 750 members from chambers across Europe attend every year.
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The event allows them to become MEPs for a day, debating and voting on some of the most crucial topics at the heart of the political and business agenda.
North Staffordshire representatives included Grindeys Solicitors of Stoke, Newcastle accountancy firm Barringtons, Stone-based oil to logistics group Global and Trentham telecoms specialist Packet Media.
Chamber policy manager Jan Gratton said the two-day visit was a 'great success'. She said: "We took 41 delegates from manufacturing, services and professional firms from across the West Midlands, including 10 from North Staffordshire."
The group met five UK MEPs and the British Ambassador to Belgium to find out more about exporting to the country.
Firms said it gave them a better understanding of the EU and how to influence the decision-making process.
Mrs Gratton said "It was a busy schedule, packed with opportunities for businesses to make new contacts and learn how to get the best results from the EU."
Packet Media managing director Julian Gallimore, left, said: "I would recommend the trip for all the usual networking reasons, but it has also given me insight to the apparatus and operation of Europe and how we might take advantage of it."
The firms' return coincided with the release of the chamber's latest quarterly economic survey, for July to September.
Sentinel Business reported in August that the previous survey, covering April to June, showed sales, orders, and profitability had all taken a hit.
The latest questionnaire – answered by 155 businesses employing 14,472 people – revealed a boost for manufacturing but the opposite in services.
Mrs Gratton said manufacturers saw UK sales grow while forward orders point to a buoyant domestic market.
Export sales, however, have stalled and the forecast points to a slowing-down. Confidence remains stable and manufacturers are taking on more staff and increasing investment.
But in the service sector, many firms reported a fall in UK sales and a stagnation of export markets, although confidence remained stable and there were signs of increased job creation over the next three months.
Mrs Gratton said: "Again, energy costs, lack of finance and skills shortages are reported as the key issues impacting on the performance of our local firms."
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