Guest blog: Kent and Medway: Making A Success of Brexit
Guest blog by Noora Virtanen, CEFEUS Graduate Coordinator on Sectoral Appraisal of SME’s and the Rural Economy
The latest report produced by the Centre for European Studies (CEFEUS) at Canterbury Christ Church University provides a detailed outlook on SMEs and Rural Economy in Kent in the context of Brexit. Launched with the support of M.P. for Faversham and Mid-Kent Helen Whately, the report focuses specifically on terms of trade with the EU and non-EU states, rules, standards, regulations, labour and funding, as well as the impact of these issues on the SMEs and the rural economy in Kent. The report recognises that these sectors will benefit most from a soft, slow, “economy-first Brexit” but only if clear signals are given by government, and viable support provided by government and business alike.
The report launch comes as Britain enters its third round of formal discussions with the European Union this week on the terms of Brexit. Amongst other documents released last week, the British Government released its ‘Future Customs Arrangements’ paper, which laid out several options on a future trade relationship with the European Bloc. The most consistent idea appeared to be a desire to negotiate a new customs relationship with the EU outside of existing options such as EEA and EFTA, although Britain did receive support to join the latter from Carl Baudenbacher, President of the European Free Trade Association Court.
In producing the report, CEFEUS collaborated for more than a year with various stakeholders across Kent and Medway to obtain as accurate an image as possible of national and regional dynamics and insights. The report, like its predecessors, is designed to provide inclusive, objective and balanced outputs of real importance to decision-makers and businesses. Due to the report’s particular focus on the county’s commerce and rural economy, and the strategic nature of its findings, Helen Whately supported CEFEUS’ third report, arguing that “it is important that the Government is furnished with a detailed understanding of what different regions and sectors need…” specifically the explicit “focus on some of our local priorities: small- and medium-sized businesses and farming.”
The report is strengthened via a range of mixed-methods evidence-based research including the two Brexit surveys conducted by Cripps in association with Insider Media, CEFEUS’ inhouse survey conducted with the Touchstone Surveys, quarterly survey-based appraisals by Kent Invicta (Chamber of Commerce) as well as an appraisal of the Kent ‘Rural Raps’ produced by Rural Plc.
The final section of the report highlights a detailed list of key ‘asks’ for the national and local government on trade, regulation, tax, labour, as well as a number of business-to-business tips. Stemming from the wide variety of stakeholders involved and the data gathering conducted on a regional level, the results of the report portray “a realistic view of county attitudes to decently manage the onset of Brexit in mitigating risks, seizing opportunities and arguing clearly for the required support”, as stated by one of the authors, Professor Amelia Hadfield. The regional analysis has already been described as very thorough and timely, with its importance on a regional level being recognised by a representative of the Bank of England.
The report has attracted much media attention and has been featured on BBC Kent, BBC Southeast and KMTV. Going forward, CEFEUS will focus on areas of policing, security and law enforcement, as well as healthcare.
Read the full report here.
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