Are you ready for a post-Brexit brand Britain?

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Published June 29, 2017

The 23 June 2017 marked the one year anniversary since the UK voted in favour of leaving the EU. Along with Surrey Chambers of Commerce, we held a follow up to our Brexit breakfast in order to revisit some of the challenges business are facing, and to provide a practical guide on what businesses should be doing and thinking about now article 50 has been triggered.

Mike Spicer, Director of Research and Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), shared his views on what can be expected during the Brexit negotiations. Here are some of our main takeaways from the insightful meeting:

Setting the scene

There is no denying that Brexit has affected British markets, with sterling devalued by 15%, consumer spending dropping and wage growth slowing. One business attending the meeting said that in the first week after the referendum they had profitable contracts cancelled, with large businesses cutting back due to dropping share prices.

However, it hasn’t been all doom and gloom as some were predicting a year ago. The fall in the pound has resulted in an increase in exports, with exports to China and India increasing rapidly. One of the business owners at our meeting reported that although the cost of importing their raw materials has gone up, they’re very pleased with large increases in their exports to the USA.

Following the snap General Election leading to a minority Conservative government, the BCC is expecting less centralised decision making within government, with a reduced appetite for big or controversial reforms. BCC has heard on the Whitehall grapevine that government departments are expecting a more collegiate, Treasury-centric approach to future policy decision making.

What we know so far

It’s still early days for the negotiations, but what we know so far is:

  • The UK will not seek continued single market membership
  • The UK will seek a new customs agreement with the EU
  • UK Parliament will vote on the final EU deal before it comes into force
  • There will be a ‘phased process of implementation’ after Brexit, but not ‘unlimited transitional status’
  • The UK cannot conclude Free Trade Agreements with Third Countries until we leave the EU, but can begin to scope them out
  • The number of EU citizens coming to the UK will be controlled
  • There will be a UK-wide solution, with Devolved Administrations playing a key role
  • In the first instance as much EU law as possible will be brought into UK law

Negotiations on the withdrawal deal will continue until late 2017, to be followed by negotiations around a future relationship taking place until late 2018. The current deadline for ending talks on the UK’s withdrawal is the 29 March 2019.

What now?

It is still too soon to know what the true outcomes of Brexit will be, however businesses should be planning and considering how the inevitable legislation changes will impact them.

For example, businesses relying on EU immigration for both skilled and lower-skilled workers may need to look into the steps they can take to avoid a future labour shortage – especially as we are seeing a drop in the number of EU workers even before any new agreements have been reached.

It is also time to start looking at how Brexit could benefit your business. One of the delegates at our meeting reflected on how British brands are respected and trusted internationally, and perhaps by ‘going it alone’ we can further capitalise on this. With a bit of British determination, grit and resilience it might be possible for British businesses, supported by new legislation, to grasp the opportunities provided to become a more self-reliant country. Additionally, with foreign goods likely to become more expensive it will encourage more UK consumers to buy British.

What next?

One attendee commented that there has been a lot of political noise around Brexit, with feverish media reporting, but with very little said on the practicalities for British businesses facing the uncertainties of Brexit. There is a strong desire for a clearer information, with fewer emotional deliberations and a stronger emphasis on real-world advice.

From listening to over 400 businesses, at 16 Chamber-hosted focus groups (like our previous Brexit breakfast meeting) the BCC have produced a report outlining the seven key areas where business communities want practical solutions and certainty. Chambers are asking government to put practicality at the heart of negotiations, and to communicate with the UK business community.

If you have questions or feedback 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 or to communicate the likely changes with your workforce, please email us.

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