The twenty-sixth event of King’s College London’s Strand Group took place at Bush House on Thursday 15th February. King’s Visiting Professor Ed Balls and Peter Sands launched their Harvard working paper, titled, ‘Time for Clarity: The Views of British Business on The Path to Brexit’, co-authored with King’s PhD student, Eleanor Hallam, and three Harvard graduate students, Nyasha Weinberg, Sebastian Leape and Mehek Sethi.
Balls and Sands then joined five business representatives for a wider panel discussion, chaired by Strand Group Director Dr Jon Davis, on the key Brexit challenges and opportunities for business. The panellists were: Katie Doherty, Policy Director, The International Meat Trade Association; Izaak Watson, Technical Manager, Martin’s Rubber Co.; Sue Davies, Strategic Policy Adviser, Which?; Will Atkinson, MD & Publisher, Atlantic Books; and John Mills, Chairman, JML.
The paper represents the second phase of a research project exploring the challenges and opportunities around Brexit from the perspective of mid-sized British businesses. Based on interviews with over 120 individual businesses, trade associations and experts, the research sought to identify and discuss the issues and priorities of mid-sized British businesses as the UK progresses towards exiting the European Union.
Highlights from this second phase of research included: most businesses want to remain in the Single Market, and if that proves impossible, to stay in the Customs Union; most businesses fear Brexit will result in more regulation, not less; and almost all British businesses want to maintain flexible access to EU labour. The key conclusion from these interviews was unambiguous: most British business leaders are concerned that the current path of Brexit could well cause significant damage to business, both because the end-point will inevitably mean more barriers to trade, most likely more regulation, and almost certainly less influence; and because the process of leaving the EU is creating huge uncertainties and diverting management efforts.
Ed Balls is a Research Fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard Kennedy School and Visiting Professor at Kings College, London.
Peter Sands is a Research Fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center and incoming Executive Director at The Global Fund.