The Brexit deal has been widely welcomed. While not perfect (what in life is?), it does provide businesses with certainty and allow everyone from fleet owners to landlords to get on with the business at hand: planning their post-Covid futures.
Unlike many cities, Nottingham’s feelings on whether to leave or remain were evenly split. The margin of leave over remain was just 2,000 votes and the turnout was low at 61.8% – the fifth lowest in the country (which averaged 72.2%).
But enough history; what does the Brexit deal mean for our great city? Well, from the perspective of someone who’s spent decades insuring Nottingham businesses, here are my five reasons why Nottingham’s key sectors have reasons to be cheerful:
1. Life Sciences – with over 91,000 people employed in life sciences – in medical devices, biotechnology, and healthcare – this is a vital sector for the Nottingham economy. Aside from the tens of millions it generates directly in terms of production, it also attracts vast investment and supports research projects at the city’s universities. Science is a global business and movement of data and people is a crucial part of it. While freedom of movement may be gone, EU nationals – especially highly skilled ones such as the ones who work in this field – will be welcomed and existing ones can easily apply for settled status. Data sharing rules are under discussion as an agreement on ‘adequacy’ needs to be reached, but if, as most expect, one is agreed then data can continue to flow freely. A deal then is a massive relief and provides certainty.
2. Logistics – physically Nottingham lies at the heart of the UK and with two airports, the A1 and M1 on its doorstep and great rail connections, is it any wonder that logistics is so important? Over 41,000 people work in logistics and transport in Nottinghamshire, jobs which depend on the free movement of goods in, out and around the UK. While we will not enjoy the unfettered access to the Single Market we once did and paperwork will increase, the trucks, couriers and hauliers can keep moving. Indeed, Nottingham’s transport sector may see an upturn in business as of the new deal changes. The disruption we saw in Dover and the predictions that ports like Portsmouth and other south coast ports may be unable to cope with added checks thanks to congestion could mean many businesses will look to ports such as nearby Immingham and Grimsby to ship their goods. If so, there’s every chance they will look to local logistics firms too.
3. Financial Services – while this is a vital sector for the UK, financial services weren’t at the heart of the Brexit discussions. This has led to a ‘thin’ announcement when it comes to this industry and a (temporary) one hopes, ending of the ‘passporting’ system. This matters to Nottinghamshire as firms such as Experian, KPMG and Deloitte all have significant presences here and the sector employs over 5,000 people. While no formal decision has been made, with a deal in place it seems likely that an agreement will be reached. Both sides have vested interests in this – London Vs Frankfurt Vs Paris – but with relations better than they’ve been in years, hopes are running high.
4. Creative and Digital – one of the city’s great success stories, Nottingham has a digital hub to match London, Manchester, or Birmingham. Fed by the two universities, the city’s reputation for being a creative centre has created a vibrant, technically dynamic, and innovative sector that has grown exponentially and is now worth tens of millions to the local economy. Its major concerns pre-deal were data sharing and access to great European talent, both of which we can hopefully lay to rest.
5. Manufacturing – loss of export markets, tariffs and added bureaucracy were the three fears of manufacturers. The first two have been avoided with the zero-tariff, zero-quota trade for all goods agreement. There will, however, be checks, increased paperwork – including for goods destined for Northern Ireland. This isn’t ideal and it will be some way away from the frictionless trade local manufacturers have become accustomed to. That said things would have been significant worse had we failed to reach a deal.
Some are actually framing this obstacle as an opportunity. They say that the UK’s manufacturing industry can meet this challenge through digital transformation, by increasing its efficiency through automation and cutting costs, especially when it comes to logistics and supply chains. If so, then Nottingham’s manufacturers are going to be at an advantage in having the requisite digital expertise on their doorsteps.
Pragmatically speaking this is a sector that has seen worse (1970s and ‘80s industrial decline with the loss of coal and steel) and survived worse. I believe they will thrive and can look forward to bigger things in 2021.
A deal means a level certainty for UK PLC. The EU takes 43% of the UK’s exports which are worth a total of £294bn according to the government. No deal and the sudden implementation of tariffs on goods going out and coming in could have been catastrophic, not least as at the time of writing its estimated that only 25% of business are Brexit ready. With Covid still causing huge problems for our economy and with our national debt at an all time high, this was a deal we all needed.
While some sectors – notably agriculture – will point to its flaws and failings, it gives businesses large and small a level of certainty that they haven’t enjoyed since 2016. As we saw in January 2020 when, in the wake of the decisive general election result and our entering the transition period, people collectively put shelved plans into action. Nottingham’s property market has boomed (it will finish up 5% higher than 2019) and the business community began to invest again. Were it not for the horrors of coronavirus we could’ve expected even more.
No; with this deal in place and with more Covid vaccines being approved, we can look forward to a better 2021. It will, as the prime minister has said, prove bumpy, but it does look like the rollercoaster ride of the past four and a half years has finally reached its end. And thank God for that!
Founder Coversure Nottingham
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