The FT & KPMG Brexit Regional Roundtable series brings together the views of senior leaders from the worlds of business, politics and academia to discuss how they can practically respond to the challenges and opportunities of Brexit.
KPMG has been meeting with organisations around the UK to assess how they are responding to Brexit in a series of dinners, hosted jointly with the Financial Times. Here are a few of the interesting things we heard in Glasgow:
1. Your Brexit perspective depends where you’re standing
While some business leaders tend to dwell on Brexit, others regard it as an opportunity to target new markets and reset their business. Those with a strong focus on the UK domestic market believe that continuing easy access to trade within the UK is the most important issue at stake. Exporters and those in hospitality are focused on the benefits that the cheaper pound has brought them, while importers and those looking to buy abroad have felt the opposite effect of currency movements.
2. CEOs are ready to promote the Scotland brand
Business leaders agree that Brexit is an unstoppable process. However, there is a keen interest in working together to promote the Scotland brand, develop the nation’s skills and create public-private partnerships across sectors. They want Scotland – and its leaders – to present the country as confident, positive and outward looking, making the most of its assets like renewable energy and a business community committed to the nation.
3. Business leaders want to keep attracting the best people
The Scottish population has grown by 5.7% in the past 15 years and almost nine in 10 of those extra 283,000 people are the result of immigration. There is a strong desire for Scotland to continue to offer an attractive environment for overseas talent but the education sector and industry should also collaborate to develop a workforce for the future. Business leaders should personally engage with young people inside schools and colleges, while those institutions should in turn inspire more people to take up studies such as engineering.
4. Scotland should focus on the fundamentals
Although there are many distractions, such as the general election and chatter about a second referendum. Scottish business leaders want to focus on issues such as skills and talent, exports, foreign direct investment (FDI) and supply chains. Scotland remains a leading destination for FDI and punches above its weight when it comes to producing tech startups. Businesses want the underlying factors behind this success to be protected.
5. Stability is key
Business leaders need time to adjust to any changes that Brexit may bring in terms of regulations and documentation. They recognise that real or perceived uncertainty and instability are the main enemies of confidence and investment. For example, a reversion to World Trade Organization (WTO) tariffs could reduce the proportion of Scottish exports to the EU from 43% to just a quarter in 10 years, according to the Fraser of Allander Institute at the University of Strathclyde.
6. Brexit will accelerate changes already taking place
Organisations are exploring how new technologies boost their markets. Businesses are examining new approaches to supply chains. And, in the academic sector, there is an acceleration in initiatives targeting students from outside the EU, as well as the development of online plans.