Brexit mental health impact 'just as much as Covid', council told
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Brexit is having as much or more of an impact on the mental health of small business owners in Suffolk than the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been warned.
A scrutiny committee meeting at West Suffolk Council on Thursday night assessed the impact of the UK's withdrawal from the European Union from January 1.
A stark warning was given that more support was needed for people hit by the extra red tape custom checks have created for importers and exporters locally.
Councillor Paul Hopfensperger, Independent councillor for St Olaves, runs the Body and Mind Studio in Bury with his wife, fellow councillor Beccy, which sells diet and nutrition products.
He told Thursday's committee that more support was needed for the people running small businesses impacted by custom changes from Brexit, which had created fresh problems and extra tasks.
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"This is supposed to be better for the United Kingdom but it's a complete and utter disaster," he said.
"It's affecting people's mental health just as much as Covid is, it's affecting people more than anyone who doesn't deal with it."
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Mr Hopfensperger said his own firm has had to update information for more than 700 products, update processes with courier firms, and print extra customs labels and invoices, which had taken "hundreds and hundreds of hours".
He also cited the burden on people running businesses which have had to close down or struggled to make ends meet.
Councillor Diane Hind added: "I am sure Brexit is going to be a bigger problem for people than Covid, I am quite sure of it."
Trade advisors employed to help advise and support Suffolk businesses have helped firms navigate some of the changes.
However Jill Korwin, from West Suffolk Council, said that they can only "give that advice in terms of what the rules and regulations are".
She added: "These are trade agreements that go beyond West Suffolk, they have been agreed at international level.
"We are working on a recovery plan across Suffolk and that also includes the fact that we are having to deal with Brexit at the same time.
"That post-Covid, post-Brexit recovery plan does address issue on mental health and what the future looks like."
Details on that plan, which will be run as a countywide programme, are expected to be unveiled in the summer.