Leading South East law firm, Thomson Snell & Passmore hosted a Brexit Forum with over 60 regional businesses to discuss the impact on the region of Brexit. Anonymous polling at the start of the Forum discovered 72% felt confident about the economy in the next 12 months, a statistic that increased towards the end of the Forum, when the same question returned a 79% confidence rating. 84% felt confident that Britain will thrive outside the EU, demonstrating that optimism is prevailing in the months following the vote to leave.
The Forum gave attendees from a range of sectors across the South East including property, construction, finance and professional services an opportunity to discuss both the opportunities and the threats posed by Brexit.
Not surprisingly, 71% of attendees said they prefer soft Brexit, in comparison with the 29% who favoured hard. This highlights the business community’s preference for stability and certainty throughout the process.
Speakers included a representative from a large bank, local Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, Dominic Deeson of the Institute of Directors and John Elliott of Millwood Designer Homes, a long standing client of the firm.
The views expressed by the speakers were varied, but one message came across clearly, that the referendum result was clear– Brexit must mean Brexit. Since the vote it was agreed that the economy had performed well, despite gloomy predictions, boosted by loose monetary policy and increases in exports and manufacturing. It is also a common view that it is an opportunity for Britain to project to the world that it is open for business.
The polling indicated that access to the single market was attendees’ biggest concern post Brexit, with 64% of the attendees citing this; the most prominent perceived benefit of leaving was the opportunity for free trade deals (70%).
Tom Tugendhat MP highlighted the sheer complexity associated with our withdrawal and was keen to stress that lobbying local MPs should be a primary objective for all business leaders., They needed to ensure that opinions and feelings towards Brexit were relayed back to Parliament not only to protect businesses against longer term ramifications but also to maximise the opportunities that a post-Brexit landscape can offer. Interestingly, many delegates were keen that their voices were heard and 57% said that they think parliament should be able to vote on the terms of Brexit. 43% disagreed.
One of the most striking messages related to the other major challenges – aside from Brexit - that British businesses are facing. These include advances in technology, increasing population, the strain on natural resources and infrastructure, income inequality, the productivity gap and a high level of national debt.
Commenting on the event, Simon Slater CEO of Thomson Snell & Passmore, who chaired the Forum said:
“This was an interesting and thoroughly informative event on the potential impact of this enormous economic and political event. It was great to be able to collate the views of business leaders in the South East, who are uniquely placed to understand the challenges and opportunities that Brexit brings. I was pleased by the fact that when we asked delegates how confident they felt about the economy in the next 12 months, their levels of optimism grew during the course of the Forum, from what was already a high level. This shows that professional advisers, must continue to help businesses prepare for what could come next, not simply in relation to risk, but also the many opportunites Brexit will bring. We are positively embracing this new landscape and look forward to continuing to support our clients during this period of uncertainty, as we have done for generations.”