Key UK business figures met at The Economist Event’s inaugural Middle Market Forum: ‘Business after Brexit’ to discuss the vital role that the UK’s Middle Market companies will play in Britain’s post-Brexit economy.
Striking a tone of cautious optimism, business figures agreed that ongoing support for the UK’s middle market was vital to ensure the UK remains on track in the wake of Brexit, uncertainty in the Eurozone and the US Presidential result. Middle-market companies, with a turnover between £25m and £500m, contribute over a third of private-sector GDP, revenues and employment. Delegates of the conference agreed that British brand remains strong abroad, which will continue to strengthen exports.
Graham Cartledge, CBE & Chairman of Benoy, who runs a business solely based in Britain, stated that he still sees Brexit as having the potential to cause chaos to UK businesses and is worried for the future. In a stark contrast, Mottie Kessler, CEO of 2M Holdings stated that “life is not controlled by Europe and the UK is the best place to run an international business” due to our time zone and availability to contact key markets in APAC and EMEA.
Miriam Gonzalez of global law firm Dechert warned: “we haven’t yet heard the basic parameters on the relationship with the EU. What we do know is that there is likely to be an acrimonious negotiation with the EU and that whatever we want to take we have to give, there will be winners and losers.”
Richard Cockett, Business Editor of The Economist rounded off the event by saying: “the speakers today have been surprisingly optimistic. The majority voted remain but are now seeing the advantages of Brexit and are seeking the opportunities which is interesting. A major concern for companies is retaining talent. Everyone agreed that we are in the fog of Brexit and feeling nonplussed by what’s happening. The message from the speakers today is that they will get on with running their business as they always have done.”
Michael Gove predicts no election before 2020
Key note speaker and MP for Surrey Heath, Michael Gove, spoke about the impact of immigration in a post-Brexit Britain. He said the public have no problem with immigration, providing that those entering the UK “manifest significant life enhancing skills”. He emphasised that concern over immigration lies with those that come to do “low skilled work” and that overall, migration should be determined by the skills that the country needs.
Gove also stated that he does not expect to see another general election before 2020 and that “the UK will be outside the EU by the next election which will be concluded in March 2019, despite parliaments recent ruling that the divorce proceedings must be legislated.”
He also emphasised that a post-Brexit priority should be a free trade agreement with the remaining EU nations and the quickest way to secure this is between two individual sovereign states. He concluded that EU migrants already living in the UK prior to the Brexit vote should be entitled to stay.