In the first of a series of meet-ups, members of Bristol’s business community came together at PwC's offices in Temple Quarter to discuss what changes Brexit might bring and what actions they can take now.
The Bristol Brexit Assembly heard from an esteemed panel, which was made up of experts in their respective fields, and who each approach Brexit from a different perspective.
On the panel was Business West’s very own Director of Policy, Matt Griffith, who has substantial experience in international trade policy and in-depth knowledge of the Bristol economy. He was joined by Phil Sypris, Professor of EU Law at Bristol University, who has been involved in the legal machinations of Brexit. The other panellists were Keith Rundle, Operations Director for the Bristol City Centre Business Improvement District, Ray Taylor, Director of Policy at PwC, and Anne O’Donnell, CEO of Procorre. The host was Mike Norton, Editor of the Bristol Post.
The discussion began on the topic of the timeline, on what has happened so far and when we can expect decisions to be made. Phil took us through the legalities of the UK’s exit. As per the Article 50 text, the UK will officially cease to be a member of the EU on the 29th of March 2019. What this will actually look like for businesses will depend very much on whether a transition agreement has been reached by that point. If it has, regulations and trading will stay the same until the end of 2020. This will mean continuity for businesses and more time to prepare.
If there is no agreement, however, it will mean all trade with the EU will be done on WTO terms and a cessation of EU regulation and certification in the UK. On preparing for a no-deal, Matt made the point that it is a high cost exercise, in which businesses examine their supply chains, discuss with their suppliers and distributors in Europe, expand storage capacity and become accustomed with customs documentation.
Questions were raised on the likelihood of new trade deals, the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and the immigration regime to expect. All of these, the panel agreed, were subject to whether there is a deal, and what that deal will look like. It was noted however that the Department for International Trade is currently focussing its energies on replicating the existing Free Trade Agreements that we currently have with through membership of the EU. The right of those EU citizens to stay has been confirmed, although it is unsure of when the cut-off point for this is. As for immigration, the government is proposing that EU citizens be treated on the same basis as other immigrants, who must currently be earning over £30,000 to enter.