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Preparing for Brexit

Colin Bell, North East LEP Business Growth Director, on preparing for Brexit:

Last week we joined forces with the CBI and law firm Ward Hadaway to hold a breakfast seminar, advising businesses in the North East on how we can all begin to prepare for the impact of Brexit.


We were joined by representatives from sectors including manufacturing, engineering, healthcare and finance gathered for the event, which took place almost exactly a year since the referendum which saw the UK vote to leave the EU.


Even though we’re still in the dark about the consequences of Brexit on the way we do business, it’s vital that we begin to get ready for the changes which are sure to come.


Sarah Glendinning, Regional Director of the CBI, began the morning by outlining the CBI’s six key principles which it says should guide UK negotiations with the EU: barrier-free trading; certainty on regulation; a migration policy that gives companies access to skills and labour; an approach that protects social and economic benefits of EU funding; and a smooth exit from the EU, avoiding a “cliff-edge” that causes disruption.


Sarah’s advice was that we have to ‘get on with business’ despite the uncertainty and indications of support from the business community for staying within the EU.


During the event I asked the question ‘How can we develop a culture within businesses that can adapt and flex in relation to the risks and opportunities Brexit will bring?’


Even though we’re now in a time of change and uncertainty there are still ways in which businesses can be preparing for Brexit’s impact and it’s not too early for us to be putting strategies in place.


During the session I outlined a number of ways in which business leaders can begin to prepare including making links with organisations such as the Department for International Trade and looking into opportunities within growing overseas markets such as Asia and China. Above all, business leaders must offer strong leadership to their teams and know that it is never too early to start to make plans for change.


We also heard from Colin Hewitt, Partner and Head of Commercial at Ward Hadaway, who spoke about the legal implications of Brexit, saying: “It may be early days for the Brexit negotiations but with less than two years before those negotiations are due to conclude, the situation has the potential to change very quickly so businesses have to start taking steps now to ensure they are not caught out.”

Colin H also discussed the impact on areas including employment, procurement, competition and commercial contracts and outlined some practical steps which businesses can take now.

It was encouraging to see so many people from the North East business sector turn out to learn more about how we can make the best of this time of change. It’s important that we work together as a region, not only taking steps to mitigate risk and uncertainty but also identifying and maximising new opportunities which may also be a result of the new business landscape.

We will be holding more partnership events like this across the region, helping business to prepare for Brexit. Sign up to the North East LEP mailing list to be kept informed about future dates.