Our Brexit Breakfast: Now’s the time for British business to act

Brexit Breakfast

Published July 8, 2016

Last week, we talked about how now that the ‘Brexit’ decision has been made and the UK is on course to leave the EU, it’s time for businesses to take action – and not just wait to see what happens.

That’s why on 5 July, we hosted a round table discussion together with the Surrey Chambers of Commerce to discuss what opportunities there are for British business now that the decision for the UK to leave the EU has been made – and how businesses can make the most of them. Event attendees included local businesses as well as representatives from UKTI and the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC); here are the main takeaways and next steps businesses can take.

Pool your knowledge
Louise Punter, CEO of Surrey Chambers of Commerce, opened the event by emphasising that local Chambers, as well as the BCC, are there to support business and help businesspeople network and discuss their concerns together: “Usually, all of the good ideas are already in the room – so we love to facilitate.”

Share your thoughts, concerns, and input
David Bharier, Business Insight Manager with BCC, emphasised that BCC knows that business is the engine of the economy, and that the organisation is committed to helping businesses navigate the post-referendum turbulence.

To achieve this, BCC plans to work with British businesses on a grassroots level to uncover and address their key areas of concern as well as top priorities – whether that’s questions about trade rules or worries about access to EU labour. To gather input, BCC will be running more polls at a national level and also engage more with businesses directly at events like our round table.

Consider all the implications of the referendum decision on your business
As a creative communications agency with an incredibly diverse roster of clients across sectors, we’re in a unique position to understand in just how many ways different businesses could be affected.

For example, while some educational providers are concerned about losing EU funding, many businesses are focused on currency fluctuations and exchange rates (which can affect everything from invoicing to purchasing) – and, of course, about how the decision will impact freedom of movement and hiring non-UK employees.

A recurring theme of the event was regulation. While some attendees welcomed the thought of having to adhere to fewer EU-driven regulations, others pointed out that it might put some people out of work – specifically in the regulatory sector.

The issue of how procurement and supply chain management will be affected was also raised, and there were some hopes that corporate tax could be lowered to make British businesses more competitive internationally.

Recognise your unique strengths
Sally Pritchett, Something Big’s co-owner, emphasised that the UK is still one of the best places in the world in which to do business – an entrepreneurial and innovative country, especially in terms of sectors like e-commerce. Though more can be done to make sure the UK is internationally recognised as a positive, attractive place for business, ‘Brand Britain’ already has strong clout around the world!

Embrace the opportunities
Though many of the attendees were concerned about the implications of the referendum decision, we were delighted to see that the general atmosphere of the event was one of positivity.

Comments included “Once we get past the emotion, you begin to see things that can be an opportunity”; “I can’t focus on the disadvantages – I need to focus on the opportunities”; and “It’s like life after divorce: you still have to get along and work together.”

Take action!
So what can businesses do to make the most of the current situation? As BCC’s David Bharier emphasised, now’s the time to take initiative. In Sally’s words, “We’ve been looking at our government for leadership – but I think it’s up to businesses to make change happen.”

Suggestions included:

  • Think about how you can diversify your offering – what do your customers want and need that you aren’t yet providing?
  • Look on your doorstep to see what local businesses you can network and grow with
  • Look beyond the UK and think about how you can grow, especially through exporting – BCC and UKTI emphasised that they have plenty of support available to help British businesses go global, and that rather than ‘falling into’ exporting, it’s up to businesses to take a pro-active approach
  • Think about taking on an apprenticeship scheme to make the most of British talent
  • Plan for the shorter term – for the next six to 12 months – and at the same time think about how the next five years could look

So what answers are British businesses looking for right now?
Based on what we heard from the businesspeople who attended the event, businesses are mostly looking for clarity. Generally around issues such as long term planning for policy, development, and the economy, and more specifically around how the outcome of the referendum – and next steps – will affect issues such as:

  • Access to the European Economic Community Common Market for British businesses
  • Procurement
  • Regulations – there was huge uncertainty as to which are British and which are EU driven
  • Freedom of movement

In addition, businesses would like to see:

  • Strong, pro-business leadership from the government
  • Flexible regulations that allow stakeholders to make important decisions quickly
  • Decisions on issues related to business, such as on airport capacity
  • A greater focus on positive stories from the media
  • More guidance and information on how to make the most of local and (more importantly) global opportunities, especially on how to start exporting
  • A clear mechanism for businesses to feed back questions to local chambers, as well as BCC, to gain more information about what’s happening, where more clarity is needed, and what opportunities there are – essentially to empower businesses and give them more tools to help drive the debate

What can British businesses do right away?
David Bharier emphasised that BCC is eager to help British business to navigate the situation as quickly as possible, and will provide guidance documents such as a compilation of FAQs to cover the most pressing questions.

Most importantly, think about what your concerns and questions are and bring them to the table!


Share your opinion on Brexit.


If you have questions about the UK leaving the EU and how this could affect your business, contact Surrey Chambers of Commerce.

If you need support to adapt or broaden your communications to make the most of new opportunities, please email us.

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