Post-Brexit Business Policies Need a Regional Approach in Kent
Delegates attending the Kent Business Summit 2020 were told that policy makers may need to account for regional variations when planning to assist British firms to adapt to life outside of the European Union.
Held in partnership with the IoD, the Federation of Small Businesses and Kent-based investment agency Locate in Kent, the conference attracted over four hundred local business leaders, academics and politicians to discuss Brexit and other main issues affecting enterprises in Kent.
Area Expected to be Particularly Affected:
Jagjit Chadha, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, focused on the future relationship between Kent and the EU. “Brexit has thrown sand into the wheels of trade”, he said. He noted that Kent’s location in particular means that it’s likely to be among the regions most seriously hit by any Brexit-related business disruption between the UK and EU.
Speaking to the conference, he advised business owners in the county to ask for more support due to this high likelihood of being directly affected by the consequences of the EU departure. In order to help them manage the impact of Brexit on the region, he directed Kentish business owners to lobby the government to share details regarding future plans.
“There is no common solution for the entire country”, he argued. “It’s highly misguided to think that there is only one response to Brexit”.
He urged local business owners to explain to the government how Kent will be affected differently by Brexit.
Others Still Have a Positive Outlook
Others were, however, more optimistic about the prospects of the county. IoD Kent ambassador William English CDir said that Kent will remain the “front door to Europe”, and huge opportunities still remain from a business point of view.
The right strategic infrastructure in place will continue to allow travel between Europe and the rest of Britain, and resurgent activity is already beginning to make Kent a bigger choice of business destination.
Delegates heard that the two key factors in the county’s future prosperity were its ability to increase private sector investment and improve productivity, both of which have stagnated since the result of the 2016 referendum.
“When asked why investment has slowed, the main answer for most businesses across the UK is Brexit uncertainty”, said Phil Eckersley, Bank of England agent for the south-east and East Anglia.
He described the situation as ‘quite finely poised’ right now; it could be temporary and eventually there will be a substantial uptake in investment, or investment activity could have slowed to the extent that there won’t be any reason to invest post-Brexit.
Planning for Post-Brexit Business in Kent
Delegates were advised to do the following:
- Business prediction: Although it may be tougher than ever to predict the direction in which business will go in a post-Brexit UK, data analytics have allowed many business owners to determine post-Brexit actions from customers and investors. Analysing trends, understanding differences in behaviour and accurately predicting outcomes is more important than ever before in a post-Brexit UK. You can find more information on UK-based data analytics study programmes here.
- Government lobbying: According to Chadha, lobbying the government to share details of their future plans is going to be one of the most effective solutions for business owners in Kent who are in the process of determining their actions post-Brexit. A deeper understanding of government plans, not just UK-wide, but also specific to Kent county, will give business owners the edge and allow them to get in front of any issues expected to rise as a result.
- Plan ahead: Additional customs duties may be levied on imports depending on the exact trade deal that the UK reaches with the EU. Tariffs may be significant for certain items while others have zero tariffs according to WTO rules. Getting familiar with customs duties and preparing for your business to pay them is crucial, especially if you have only done business with the EU so far and do not normally pay them.
- GDPR: Once the transition period ends on 31 December 2020, GDPR will no longer be UK law – however, the government is expected to write it, or a similar legislation into UK law. Until the EU reaches an adequacy decision regarding the UK, it will be classed as a ‘third country’ after the transition period ends. This means that the transfer of any personal data to the UK from the EEA will only be permitted with appropriate safeguards in place.
Do you expect your business to be affected by Brexit? Have you already seen an effect? Let us know!