Brexit dominates business discourse

Calverley House

ONE issue dominated the Kent Vision Live business exhibition last week, Brexit.

Around 300 companies and ten times as many individuals gathered at the largest business exhibition in the South East, which was hosted at the Kent Showground in Detling on May 10.

Robert Peston, ITV’s political editor and former BBC economics correspondent, addressed a packed hall who had come to listen to his views on the ‘Brexit Bombshell.’

He blamed a globalisation’s failure to distribute wealth more evenly for the rise of Donal Trump and the UK’s vote to leave the EU. He also said firm’s would need to raise their productivity in order to weather any fallout from the upcoming negotiations.

Mr Peston was followed by Institute of Directors chief economist James Sproule who spoke on whether business could carry on as usual after Britain leaves the EU.

He engaged in a question and answer session on issues ranging from border controls, to migrant workers and ‘hard Brexit’, and said to those gathered that the process ‘could be a success’ but everyone had to ‘make sure that is the case’.

Britain will come to terms with Brexit before the EU will, Mr Sproule added.

Other keynote speakers who focused on Brexit and its implications included Professor Richard Whitman of the University of Kent, who warned ‘political uncertainty’ is now the ‘new normal’ in British politics.

He added: “I don’t think the government has used the period of time it’s had up until now to do decent preparation.

“They could have had studies looking at immigration, business and the like. We are not having a national conversation but just a rerun of the remainer remoaner conversation.”

Erol Huseyin, a partner at Maidstone law firm Brachers, said the process of untangling British and EU legislation will give rise to ‘a number of issues’.

Kent Vision Livet took place shortly after Canterbury Christ Church University announced a new draft report is being prepared by their Centre for European Studies (CEFEUS) looking into the impact of Brexit on Kent’s companies.

CEFEUS director Dr Amelia Hadfield, speaking at a seminar hosted by Tunbridge Wells-based law firm Cripps at the headquarters on April 25, said: “There is a whole range of issues where we want to get a better understanding of business thinking – from the regulations they would like to see retained or scrapped and the possible impacts of a prolonged transition period to the kind of support companies would like to see from local and national government.

“We are particularly interested in the views of SMEs as they make up such a large proportion of the county’s economy. The better the data that goes into the final report, the more likely it is the government will pay attention to our findings and recommendations.”

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