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Two thirds of businesses at Kent Brexit event vote to stay in EU

Contributed by editor on Jun 14, 2016 - 09:17 PM

 

A poll of business leaders attending an event to discuss the potential impact of Brexit on businesses in Kent showed that 65% want to remain in the EU.

 

 

... areas of employment law could be subject to early change .....

And nearly three out of ten admitted that uncertainty surrounding the referendum result was affecting their short and long term planning.

Nearly 100 people attended the event on Wednesday 8 June which was organised by leading accountancy and financial services firm Kreston Reeves and Furley Page, one of the region’s leading law firms.

Representatives drawn from a range of businesses listened intently to presentations from commercial, financial and legal experts on key issues of interest, including commerce, competition regulation, agriculture and employment law.

The audience also heard from Phil Eckersley, Bank of England Agent for the South East and East Anglia, who provided invaluable insight into the economy, focusing on matters affecting businesses within the region.

 

The organisers then carried out their own poll and of the 79 who completed ballot cards, 65% said they were in favour of remaining within the EU, while 35% opted to leave.

Asked whether the uncertainty caused by the 23 June referendum had impacted on their short and long term planning, 5% of respondents said it had hit their long term planning, 13% said their short term planning had been affected, while another 9% said both their short term and long term planning had been a casualty of the furore surrounding the in-out debate – making a total of 27% admitting the Brexit question was having a detrimental impact on their business arrangements.

Clive Stevens, Chairman and Head of Taxation at Kreston Reeves, said he was delighted with the turnout for the event at Bridgewood Manor Hotel near Chatham which provided an opportunity for the business community to find out more about what a break with the EU could mean for them.

PETER HAWKES, SENIOR PARTNER AND HEAD OF DISPUTE RESOLUTION AT FURLEY PAGE, OPENED THE PRESENTATIONS BY BRANDISHING A BUNCH OF BANANAS TO HIGHLIGHT THE FACT THAT THE EU DEBATE HAD BECOME MIRED IN CLAIM AND COUNTER-CLAIM ABOUT THE WORST EXCESSES OF EU BUREAUCRACY – IN THIS CASE, WHETHER IT WAS TRUE THAT BRUSSELS LIMITS THE SIZE OF A BUNCH OF BANANAS SOLD IN BRITISH SHOPS.

Peter mapped out what he thought Brexit could mean to the UK legal system under which businesses operate. While he believed that there would be no immediate changes to our laws, he suggested that changes could come in areas such as intellectual property rights, data protection, competition regulation, environmental law and contract and human rights.

Andrew Masters, Partner and Head of Employment at Furley Page, said Brexit would have “a very significant” impact because the UK’s employment law framework is heavily influenced by EU sourced law. Thanks to the EU, the last 20 years had seen huge changes in the areas of working time rights, discrimination, maternity and parental leave, agency workers and more – all of huge importance to UK business and likely to be in the spotlight if we opt out of the EU.

While admitting that he did not have a crystal ball to show what would be the likely impact of Brexit on EU-derived rights in employment, Andrew said it was no secret that the UK Government was unhappy with certain EU-imposed laws relating to working time arrangements. This and other areas of employment law could be subject to early change.


Sarah Bell, an agriculture specialist at Kreston Reeves, explained that UK agriculture and related business is intricately linked with the EU particularly when it comes to regulation, labour, subsidy and trade. Without EU subsidies to rely on, could our farmers expect a new system of financial support from Whitehall, she asked.

Rodney Sutton, Advisory and Assurance Partner and Head of Manufacturing at Kreston Reeves, examined the potential changes to the commercial context for business, pointing out that big business had been most vocal in their support for remaining in Europe principally because they trade more across the continent. He suggested that whichever side wins the vote will find it difficult to move forward after such a long and fractious debate.

The four speakers were joined by Phil Eckersley and Clive Stevens in a lively question and answer session with the audience, which covered topics including the likely impact of Brexit on the pound, Britain’s future trading arrangements with the world and whether we would seek to adopt the trading models of Norway, Canada or Switzerland, the likelihood of Britain adopting the Euro if we vote to stay in, and control of our borders and immigration controls.

 

 

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