Kent companies must make their views known if the county and country are to make the best of Brexit.
That was the conclusion of a seminar jointly hosted by Kent’s leading law firm, Cripps, and Canterbury Christ Church University.
The event saw the unveiling of a draft report being prepared by the university’s Centre for European Studies (CEFEUS) which draws on research commissioned by Cripps alongside data from the University of Kent and insights from HSBC.
But, according to CEFEUS director Dr Amelia Hadfield, further market intelligence about the issues facing Kent businesses and what they want to see from Brexit is badly needed.
“There is a whole range of issues where we want to get a better understanding of business thinking – from the regulations they would like to see retained or scrapped and the possible impacts of a prolonged transition period to the kind of support companies would like to see from local and national government.
“We are particularly interested in the views of SMEs as they make up such a large proportion of the county’s economy and very much reflect the national picture as a whole. The better the data that goes into the final report, the more likely it is the government will pay attention to our findings and recommendations.”
In its latest survey of regional business leaders, Cripps found that less than 40 per cent have reviewed their business plans with many adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach in terms of their strategy, investment and employment decisions.
Managing partner Gavin Tyler said: “Although the reality of Brexit remains too uncertain for it to have significantly impacted on business planning, we are surprised that the majority of businesses have not yet started reviewing business strategies and mapping out alternative post-Brexit scenarios.”
Also speaking at the seminar was Paul Winter of Sittingbourne-based Wire Belt Ltd, which employs 80 people and exports all over the world from, in his words, Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.
He outlined the worst case scenario planning the company had undertaken with regards the imposition of financial and logistical barriers – and how delays in delivering goods would be detrimental to the business.
“We export in excess of 60 per cent of our output,” he said. “The EU is important but so are the Americas, India, Asia and Australasia. Also of importance are the associate members of the EU. All of these areas are likely to be affected as indeed are our raw material imports.
“We are considering achieving Authorised Economic Operator accreditation which, we think, will assist with the paperwork support for international shipments post-Brexit. We are also planning how we deal with the increase in the cost of imported raw materials which is certain to follow the short term benefit we have received through the weakness of the pound.”
Cripps and Canterbury Christ Church University will continue to work together closely to understand how Brexit will affect the regional business community. To contribute to the Kent and Medway: Making a Success of Brexit report, contact Dr Amelia Hadfield at CEFEUS at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cripps has offices in Tunbridge Wells, London and Kings Hill.