Business leaders comment on EU Referendum results
People of the UK have voted to leave the EU.
But what does this mean for the south west business community? Business Leader Magazine spoke to prominent business people about the results. Here are their views:
Jonathan Brecknell – Director at Urban Creation
“It is very difficult to know where the cards will fall. There will no doubt be a period of uncertainty but the underlying fundamentals of the UK still remain really good. In many ways, a ‘leave’ vote throws up more questions than it answers and the question of whether we emerge stronger or weaker as a result of an exit from the EU is down to the skilful negotiation of the politicians.”
Peter Musgrove – Head of Bristol office, Lambert Smith Hampton
“As politicians figure out what the consequences are, the lack of an obvious market consensus in the short term presents opportunities for those who know where to look. We saw it during the financial crisis a few years ago when smart investors spotted undervalued assets and then benefited from strong returns as the rest of the market caught up. For anyone looking to take advantage of the opportunities that Brexit will inevitably present, I’d encourage you not to skimp on good due diligence or local market insight.”
Michael Robson – Chief Executive of Andrews Property Group
“The great unknown here sits with government policy. Who will be in charge? What will happen to the stock markets and value of the pound? It’s very possible that some employers could panic and jobs could then be lost.
“However, let’s not lose sight of reality – of the things that we DO know. The underlying drivers of the property market (namely demand) will not disappear and so the market will recover as will prices. This presents a great opportunity for purchasers – especially those taking their first step on the property ladder – as they’ll have the opportunity to buy during the current lull and then reap the benefits as the market recovers.”
Paul Baker – Director in the Bristol office of JLL
“Even if it is effectively ‘business as usual’ for the UK in terms of trade and legislation until 2018, such a major change will inevitably create uncertainty in the economy and real estate markets. In the event of a well-managed exit, these impacts will be largely confined to the UK.
“In the short term, we may see a weakening in occupier demand. The impact on rents may be limited by tight supply, but activity will be adversely hit while initial uncertainty about direction and timing continues. Investor sentiment may also remain subdued in the short to medium term. For property markets, the initial correction may be most severe but should be followed by an upturn as opportunities re-emerge in UK core markets and benefits of weak sterling are recognised. Sentiment and relative pricing will be key.
“Much will depend on the speed of negotiation, the wider political picture and whether a clear direction of travel and timetable for an EU exit is established early on.”
Andy Blackmore – Head of Financial Services for South West & Wales, EY
“As a result of the leave vote it is even more important that the UK supports its biggest drivers of growth, and that includes financial services. There’s no time to look back, the government and the industry need to work together and speak with one voice to help the industry weather the short term volatility and remind investors and financial institutions of why the UK has long been one of the world’s leading financial centres.
“Many of the UK’s innate strengths will continue to work in our favour outside of the EU. But we need to answer people’s valid concerns about access to the single market and regulation quickly and effectively if we are to protect our financial services industry as one of the major growth drivers of the UK’s economy.”
Tim Lincoln – Practice Leader, Grant Thornton South West
“After initial market volatility, we can expect a period of instability and uncertainty. It is important to bear in mind that very little changes immediately, so businesses should stay calm, review their contingency plans and start considering the mid-long term opportunities whilst the dust settles. Organisations need to assess the risks to their business and develop strategies which mitigate these, or indeed, capitalise on new opportunities.
“No Member State has left the EU before and there is no agreed process for building a UK outside the EU. Business needs to lead this debate and help shape a vision of what a vibrant UK outside the EU will look like. The world is changing fast, driven by technology and social change, and we need to create a UK that can harness this change rather than ignore or resist it.
Marvin Rees – Bristol Mayor
“It’s important we understand the meaning of the Brexit vote. It was a call for change. The attractiveness of the Brexit call was a judgment on how we have done economic development and managed our public services as a country. Too many people have been left out of the so-called economic recovery. And they have suffered from a failure to protect and invest in our public services.
“We must learn from these lessons as we go forward as we build our future. The plans we put in place must put tackling inequality, creating opportunity and decent jobs and protecting and investing in our public services at the heart of what we do. We need to ensure we don’t only get economic growth, we need the right kind of economic development. A month ago the people of Bristol gave me this mandate. And it remains my duty to fulfil it.
“We are a global city of mixed heritage. We are a welcoming city. And we are a city of sanctuary. I pledge we will continue to be so.”
Phil Smith – Managing Director of Business West
“Many South West firms export to the EU, are part of pan European supply chains, rely on skilled European labour or depend on foreign investment due to the UK’s position in the single market. These firms need clarity as quickly as possible about the UK’s future trading relationship with Europe. Without clarity there is a danger that investments will be put on hold, plans for new plant, new jobs and new expansion will be frozen.
“Government must set out what its negotiating time frame is; how negotiations around future trade relationships will go alongside withdrawal from the European Union and give clear reassurances around the quality of market access it seeks to achieve. The aim of the negotiations cannot be to raise the drawbridge to either Europe or the world. Equally fears over migration cannot be allowed to trump the UK’s economic interests.
Rob Vivian – CEO Pure Comms
“Whilst I am naturally disappointed that we have chosen to exit the Union – now is not the time to be making terrible predictions and doom mongering. We live in a democratic society and this has proven that we are capable of decision making as a democracy. Whilst there is uncertainty ahead – challenging economic climates always make for the business leaders to step up and exploit opportunities. Now is the time for Business Leaders to step up and put all their energies into driving the UK Economy forward”
Brady George – MD of Almeda Facilities Ltd
“After months of campaigning, we now know the decision. The people have voted to leave the EU. Naturally, it’s going to be a shock to our economic infrastructure but we now have certainty for which we can plan. It’s a lack of confidence and willingness to invest and spend that causes recessions, so we need to ensure we adapt to these new surroundings and continue to drive forward as a business and region.
“Let’s look at the new opportunities presented. Let’s show leadership and resolve and navigate these unchartered waters with confidence, not fear. I do also hope that we continue to be inclusive and fair as a society and that much of the negative campaigning doesn’t take centre stage. I hope that instead we take advantage of this new opportunity in a positive way.”
Ian Brokenshire – Lead for Enterprise in the South West, KPMG
“There will be a period of change while the exit is negotiated and new terms are agreed for cross-border trade and there may be issues with investment and funding in the short term. However, local business owners are naturally positive and they are likely to see the sun through the clouds quicker than most.
“Prior to the referendum, the Leave campaign argued that Brexit would in due course bring benefits in the form of freedom from restrictive EU regulation and interference. As a result, some in local government may be looking forward to relief from compliance with EU procurement rules, which are often cited as the reason for hold-ups in delivery of vital contracts. However, much of the sentiment in the sector is far from upbeat.
“The hospitality sector, as a major income-generator in our region, will be looking to reassure the large numbers of EU nationals employed in the sector. EU supplier and commercial contracts will need to be reviewed, and there will also be concerns over foreign visitor numbers within the industry. All of these factors could have a material impact on operations and revenues.
“For our agricultural industry, there is a lot of uncertainty around income. However, there is an opportunity to join forces and negotiate preferential government payments to replace the EU ‘CAP’ system.”