SPERI holds policy roundtable to explore Brexit, Article 50 and the views of EU business

On Friday 31st March SPERI celebrated the publication of our latest Global Political Economy briefs by holding a policy roundtable event at the University of Sheffield. The roundtable, funded by the ESRC, “Understanding EU Business views on Brexit”, brought together a select group of representatives from academia, employer organisations, business and policy advocacy groups to discuss our latest briefs: ‘Frankfurt, Paris and Dublin: Post-Brexit Rivals to the City of London?’ and ‘EU Business Views on Brexit: Politics, Trade and Article 50’. The former brief on the City of London has been covered by the Guardian newspaper here.

Key speakers at the event included Alex Cobham (Chief Executive of the Tax Justice Network), Neil Foster (National Research and Policy Officer at the GMB union), Mick Moran (Professor of Government at the University of Manchester Business School) and Allie Renison (Head of Europe & Trade Policy at the Institute of Directors). The event was chaired by SPERI Associate Fellow Dr Desiree Fields from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Geography.

The roundtable was opened by SPERI co-director Professor Tony Payne before Dr Scott Lavery, the project leader, summarised the findings of the two new briefs. They argue that (a) powerful firms and business interest groups are likely to have a significant influence over the shape of the Article 50 negotiations and (b) that despite the widespread acknowledgement that the City of London is likely to remain dominant after Brexit, there is a consensus coming from Frankfurt, Paris and Dublin that opportunities exist for them to attract vulnerable sub-sectors from the City. Dr Fields then invited each speaker to share their thoughts on Brexit in general and on the SPERI policy briefings in particular, before opening up to a ‘roundtable’ format.

The panel noted that while Brexit had presented a moment of catharsis and an opportunity to ‘take stock’ of Britain’s industrial strategy considerable domestic and international barriers remained, with Brexit potentially amplifying already existing problems with the UK’s economic model. The panel also discussed how Brexit is likely to lead to sectoral divergence amongst the UK’s businesses with some areas of trade and commerce proving to be more resilient than others in the face of a potential loss to the single-market. Finally, the issue of deregulation of the City of London was discussed. While there was a general consensus that the UK’s exit from the EU could potentially result in a regulatory ‘race to the bottom’ there was a general feeling that Brexit would not result in a ‘bonfire of regulation’. Likewise, it was agreed that although there would be some kind regulatory equivalency adopted by City regulators post-Brexit this would not result in the adoption of exact standards but rather regulatory co-operation.