Nick de Bois, former MP for Enfield North, former chief of staff to Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, and former MD of Rapier Group, talks through what the latest Brexit news might mean for companies operating in the events industry.
Interview by EN editor Nicola McDonald
What is your advice for events businesses at this point?
I think businesses that are taking steps to prepare for No Deal should maintain those preparations, despite what you may be hearing from parliament that No Deal is off the table. It isn’t, and it remains a possibility. It would be prudent for businesses to continue their preparations.
My point here is that it would be easy to think that No Deal is off the table because parliament is putting forward its ideas and trying to arrive at a consensus and politicians are suggesting that No Deal is off the table. That may be the case, but is by no means guaranteed, so it would be prudent for event businesses to maintain their preparations. That’s my key message.
Are there any particular types of businesses that are more at risk?
If your business is entirely within the UK market you will have less need of preparation than if you are doing international programs in the European Union. But having said that, all businesses will face the potential of needing to make changes. For example, if your supply chain is outside the UK. My advice would be take a look at the technical notices published by the government on gov.uk. They give advice on movement of services and products between the UK and the European Union.
It gives guidance on any changes in regulatory standards you might need to operate within the European Union and it gives very straightforward information that is easily overlooked, such as the requirement for international driving licences and passport requirements, should we exit the European Union without a deal.
Are there any changes that we know for sure will happen?
If we exit the European Union without an agreement? Yes there are. If we exit the European Union with a deal then there is a long transition period. So that would not require any important steps to be taken. If, however, there is an extension beyond the current proposed extension of 12 April then obviously that would depend on the terms and conditions of that extension.
Who in the events ecosystem might bear the brunt of issues arising from Brexit?
It depends entirely on the way that we leave the European Union. It depends on the terms that we leave the European Union with, and of course the biggest frustration for businesses is that we are less than two weeks away from the latest date and they don’t know. It reflects badly on government, but it does mean questions like that can only be answered when we know the terms of what we are leaving on.
So, we just don’t know?
That’s not strictly true. We can anticipate what will happen under No Deal by referring to technical notices, and looking at the No Deal preparations that have been put in place by member states of the European Union. We know, for example, that transport and logistics for many transport companies will not have any regulatory delays imposed because they’ve agreed an extension of the existing terms, which meet the safety requirements and driver requirements for driving in the European Union.
We know that much; that’s in place in the event of No Deal because that’s been agreed. We know that people will be able to fly within Europe and land their planes and there will be no restrictions on that because we’ve reached agreement on that in the event of No Deal. Again, by referring to the technical notices, people can learn about this and many other issues what steps have been agreed and what haven’t. If you are saying ‘will there be delays at customs points?’, well we have been assured by the Port of Calais that they anticipate no delays. One can never be certain.
Will our relationship with specific countries be consistent?
If there is an agreed deal to a withdrawal agreement between the UK and the EU then it will be very consistent. However, in the event of No Deal, member states of the European Union will be free to apply their own rules on things like working abroad etc. All customs and regulatory matters would be consistent because they have to comply with the Customs Union and the single market, which is consistent throughout the remaining 27 member states.