Speakers included Anastassia Beliakova, senior trade policy manager at the British Chambers of Commerce; Michael Walsh, course director for economics at Coventry University Business School; Mike Josypenko, senior director at the Institute of Export and Trade; and David Burton, who chairs the Chamber’s Brexit Club.
The panel of experts talked about a range of topics including the negotiating options available to the UK and the types of trade deals that may be struck with the EU and other countries around the world.
Some of the potential drawbacks of leaving the EU were highlighted during the discussion and the Chamber, through the BCC, will continue ensure government is aware of the concerns of business before they enter talks.
One issue is around origin of goods and what happens when the UK leaves the EU and the customs union. UK manufacturers could find themselves facing additional red tape and customs procedures compared to their EU competitors.
This would also affect UK firms that import products or components from outside the EU and then sell on into European markets.
“A company in Coventry and Warwickshire with a competitor in the EU making the same part, needs to be aware of potential issues,” said Josypenko.
“UK origin is likely to be a requirement (for future UK Free Trade Agreements), so companies should be considering this in their supply chain now.”
The panel agreed that there would be a balancing act for the Government to try to get a deal that satisfies the electorate but that is also good for the economy.
They said that while tariffs on imports and exports had already been highlighted as a major, potential issue once Brexit happens, they agreed that additional ‘non-tariff-barriers’ to trade, such as customs procedures, paperwork and regulatory requirements, could be a bigger problem for firms exporting.
UK trade with non-EU countries was also discussed. Beliakova said: “We have access on preferential terms to 50 to 60 markets around the world through the EU. The best possible deal for the UK would be to still have access to these terms after Brexit rather than have to renegotiate.”
Walsh added that most economists agree there will be a fall in the UK GDP after Brexit but estimates varied by how much and that the terms of any deal on trade would have a significant impact.
Burton said: “I am reminded of the age-old phrase, that the devil is in the detail and we must continue to press home to the negotiators what we need as businesses to make Brexit work.
“We, as a Chamber, accept that Brexit is happening and want to support our members to take advantage of any opportunities that lie ahead, but it is right that we highlight the concerns and some of the details that, to many, seem small but are vital to the well-being of small, medium and large businesses on our patch.
“If businesses do have concerns about Brexit, they should raise them with us now so that we can ensure their voices are heard. It will be too late to raise them once we are out.”
The Chamber has been scaling up the support it offers to importers and exporters and recently announced a new International Trade Membership package which offers companies a range of services and assistance when they are trading overseas.
It ranges from help with export documentation through to free entry to events across the year covering international trade.
For more information on that or the Chamber’s Brexit Club, log onto www.cw-chamber.co.uk or call 024 7665 4321.