CEFEUS Launches its Third Brexit Report (July 2017)
On 13th July 2017, Canterbury Christ Church’s Centre for European Studies (CEFEUS), launched its third Brexit report in just over a year, at Portcullis House, Westminster.
By Professor Amelia Hadfield and Elizabeth Bailey CEFEUS Communications Manager
The first two reports provided a brief but concise appraisal (both pre- and post-Referendum) of Brexit’s impact upon the strategic sectors of Kent and Medway. The most recent report refined its focus to two core sectors in the county: Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) and the Rural Economy.
As with the December 2016 report, July’s SME and Rural Economy report was launched with the support of Helen Whately, M.P. for Faversham and Mid-Kent. In December, Helen reminded us to be guided by key questions regarding “what our Brexit will look like: our future relationship with the European Union, and our relationships with countries outside the EU.” The July report did just that: focusing upon trade with EU and non-EU countries, the status of new rules, regulations and standards, labour and funding, and the consequences of changes in these key areas to SMEs and the rural economy.
Due to the report’s particular focus on the county’s commerce and rural economy, and the strategic nature of its findings, Helen supported CEFEUS’ third report, arguing that “it is important that the Government is furnished with a detailed understanding of what different regions and sectors need…” specifically the explicit “focus on some of our local priorities: small- and medium-sized businesses and farming.”
Chairing the launch panel was Mr Stephen Fidler, the London Bureau Chief of The Wall Street Journal, and newly appointed Visiting Professor of Politics and International Relations at CCCU, who helpfully set out the current Brexit context in both political and economic terms. After inviting Helen to provide a Parliamentary perspective, Professor Fidler then invited Dr Mark Hammond, a fellow CCCU Visiting Professor, and a co-author of the report to set out the genealogy of the work undertaken by CEFEUS, as well as its overall objectives in producing inclusive, objective and balanced outputs of genuine utility to decision-makers and business leaders alike. Professor Hammond argued that insights derived from evidence-based research were the only solution to a political climate in which key decisions on Brexit appeared to be guided largely by “blind faith and patriotism”.
In examining the content of the report, the audience heard next from Paul Winter of Wire Belt Ltd, Chair of the Sub-Sector group on SMEs, and Charles Tassell, representing Michael Bax, Chair of the Sub-Sector group on Rural Economy to provide more detail. Paul outlined risk of SMEs remaining unprepared as Brexit approached, the potential impact of tariffs on both goods and supply chains of an ex-Single Market status for Britain, and the role that business played in working to illuminate the Brexit negotiations. Charles then outlined the resilience of farming in approaching the range of challenges, from potential labour shortages in the short-term to alterations in the support scheme, and transitions to post-Brexit farming innovations.
The final portion of the report was covered by co-author Professor Amelia Hadfield. After thanking the CEFEUS research team, and echoing Mark’s statement on the need for objective analysis, Amelia then outlined the four methods of data gathering, including surveys of local businesses by Cripps LLP in association with Insider Media (with whom it has worked in partnership for a year), quarterly survey-based appraisals by Kent Invicta (Chamber of Commerce), bespoke analysis undertaken by CEFEUS and Touchstone Surveys, and an appraisal of the Kent ‘Rural Raps’ produced by Rural Plc.
Taken together, Professor Hadfield argued that the results represented “a realistic view of county attitudes to decently managing the onset of Brexit in mitigating risks, seizing opportunities and arguing clearly for the required support.” Amelia concluded by drawing attention to the final section of the report which contains a detailed list of key ‘asks’ for both national and local government in the areas of trade, regulation, tax, labour, etc., as well as separate sectoral advice, and business-to-business tips.
Professor Fidler then opened the remainder of session to Q&A from the audience, which included representatives from business large and small, as well as sectoral representatives, and national and local government. Phil Eckersley from the Bank of England made an early and memorable contribution, stating that the CEFEUS report was the most thorough he had seen at this point, and that he would be making direct use of it in his regional analysis. Questions ranged from broad macro-economic impacts to sector-specific changes within agriculture. Helen Whately helped draw the session to a close, complimenting CEFEUS on its high quality, timely and utility-driven research, stating again the vital importance of ‘contributing in useful fashion’ to the most pressing issue facing contemporary Britain. Professors Hammond and Fidler advised the audience to ‘watch this space’, not only in terms of further work on SMEs and the rural economy, but 2017-18 work by CEFEUS on policing, security and law enforcement, as well as the area of healthcare.
The report has subsequently enjoyed strong media coverage: BBC Kent and BBC Southeast interviewed Professor Hadfield a number of times in the fortnight before the launch, while KMTV undertook a variety of panel interviews on the day itself, with Professor Hadfield featuring as the inaugural guest on its first terrestrial show, the following day. Examples of coverage can be found at the following two links: