One of Cumbria’s top voices in business has warned that a general election may do little to help the county.

Rob Johnston, chief executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, touched on the need for a speedy resolution to the national deadlock on how Brexit should be resolved.

For Prime Minister Boris Johnson, speaking on Thursday evening, the answer was simple: hold a general election on December 12.

But Mr Johnston remains unconvinced this will bring the deadlock to an end, and is concerned it will instead prolong the political paralysis.

“Businesses are looking for an end to Brexit uncertainty, but it’s far from clear whether a general election will help,” Mr Johnston said. “It’s possible that it could deliver a government with a clear majority but, equally, we might get another hung Parliament and be no further forward.”

Mr Johnston stressed that the continuing uncertainty was already having an impact on Cumbrian businesses.

“We know that Brexit uncertainty is a drag on the economy.

“Surveys that we’ve carried out show that businesses have paused investment and hiring decisions until Brexit is resolved.”

Labour’s Parliamentary candidate in Carlisle, Ruth Alcroft, said her party was ready for an election, but added: “The Labour policy is to vote for an election once no-deal, which would be hugely damaging to Cumbria, is off the table.

“I think this is a reasonable position in the circumstances,”

Echoing the desire to see a no deal Brexit prevented before a general election campaign begins was Carlisle’s Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate Julia Aglionby.

She said: “Because we haven’t got a guarantee that a no deal Brexit is not going to happen, we are not looking for a December 12 election.

“Until we have an agreed extension from the EU and an undertaking from Boris Johnson that we will not be heading towards no deal, then we should not have an election.”

Penrith and the Border MP Rory Stewart, however, thinks an election can’t come soon enough.

“I want Parliament to call an election on Monday,” he said. “For two years, Parliament has been frozen, unable to agree on Brexit. The only way to resolve that is to have another election.”

He dismissed the idea that the prospect of no deal should get in the way of an immediate election.

“I’m passionately against no deal. I destroyed my career in order to stop no deal.

“But the one thing that myself and the other former Conservative rebels may have achieved is to shift the Conservative Party from no deal to a deal.

“I think Boris Johnson seriously wants a deal and will campaign for a deal.”

Also against the idea of a no deal Brexit is Rob Johnston, who added: “We’ve been clear that a no-deal Brexit would be damaging – we would much prefer a deal that allows trade to flow


Mr Johnston added he would not be drawn on whether Brexit itself was good or bad for Cumbrian businesses.

“The Chamber has never taken a stance for or against Brexit because we know the issue divides our members,” he said.

“Instead, we’ve concentrated on helping businesses to understand what Brexit will mean for them so that they can put necessary measures in place.”