On Friday 15th July, the Chamber was privileged to host Steve Baker MP, who offered a personal perspective on Leaving the EU.

The timing could hardly have been better. When we invited Steve Baker, it was to help us try to see through the fog of uncertainty in the wake of the EU exit vote. Only a few days before our event, the Conservative Party was embarking on a 9-week process to find a new leader and Prime Minister. And yet, when we sat down to breakfast, the new Prime Minister was in place, senior cabinet appointments had been made, and the leadership of the teams charged with exiting the EU and negotiating the UK’s new global relationships established.

For the Chamber and our guests, the breakfast was an opportunity to hear and question someone who, as co-Chairman of Conservatives for Britain, has been prominent in making the case for a new relationship with Europe and the rest of the world.

A PDF copy of Steve’s presentation is available on his web site. In order to gain full benefit of his analysis, readers may wish to follow the various links and references throughout the document.

Steve Baker MP at breakfast with Chiltern ChamberSteve Baker MP at Chiltern Chamber breakfastConservatives for Britain was launched in 2015 to represent Conservative Party supporters wishing to see a new relationship between Britain and the EU based on free trade and friendly co-operation, rather than political union. Initially it sought to help drive David Cameron’s renegotiations with the EU, but with the granting of only minor reforms, it put its support behind Vote Leave campaign. It argues that Britain outside the EU can achieve both increased global influence and economic success.

Change, or go - book coverSteve started his talk by demonstrating some of the detailed thought has been given to the Brexit process.

The voluminous literature included Change, or go – How Britain would gain influence and prosper outside an unreformed EU, published by Business for Britain. Anyone wishing to read the detailed analysis across all aspects of the UK’s business, financial, defence, legal, educational, cultural, social and international interests can click the image for a PDF version.

Steve suggested that we should look beyond the current hawkish political statements being made by various EU leaders and officials, which are quite the norm in such a situation.

The presentation cited BDI (the German equivalent of the CBI) chief Markus Kerber, who told the BBC World Service before the referendum: “Imposing trade barriers, imposing protectionist measures between our two countries – or between the two political centres, the European Union on the one hand and the UK on the other – would be a very, very foolish thing in the 21st Century… The BDI would urge politicians on both sides to come up with a trade regime that enables us to uphold and maintain the levels of trade we have…”  The day after the referendum, his official tone on the BDI web site was quite different: “Tough negotiations with the UK will dominate the EU agenda for the next two years. A whole range of issues, such as access to the European single market, regulatory standards and professional mobility need re-negotiation… We expect business with the UK to nosedive in the coming months. Bilateral trade will inevitably suffer and new direct investments by Germany in the UK are extremely unlikely.”  Which will prove the more pragmatic course?

Informal discussions by those likely to be conducting actual negotiations are said to have been reasonably positive in tone.  Meanwhile, trade negotiators from other countries have already started approaching Britain.

Steve emphasised the need for Britain to take control of the process, with an implementation map broadly defined as Informal Negotiations – Formal Negotiations – Implementation:

  1. Informal Negotiations. No immediate use of Article 50; UK government to explore how the other EU countries and the Commission want to proceed.
  2. Act of Parliament: Section 2 of the European Communities Act 1972 enshrines the supremacy of EU law. It must be repealed but it would be best to do it as part of an overall agreed transition with the EU. Ultimately, however, it is entirely a matter of UK law and what Parliament decides. Via a single Act of Parliament, Britain can repeal this fundamental law, simultaneously incorporate all existing EU law into UK law, and provide for amendment or repeal of specific laws over time.
  3. Formal Negotiations. After the informal phase the government will know the appropriate mechanism for a new relationship or not. Article 50 may not be the only possible path – history suggests that it may be possible to agree a different legal mechanism to Article 50.
  4. Implementation of new arrangements.

In terms of trade deals, Steve argued that leaving while preserving full trading relations may be more straightforward than generally believed. Pointing to analysis from Lawyers for Britain, he believes that many of the existing EU free trade deals can be ‘grandfathered’. Both the EU and its member states (including the UK) are usually parties to such agreements, and the UK can continue to apply the substantive terms of these agreements on a reciprocal basis by mutual acknowledgement. This, he argued, was an effective response to suggestions of years of uncertainty while the UK renegotiates international trade arrangements. The same body argues that there would be no impediment to the UK resuming its WTO seat.

It is clearly very early days. We thank Steve Baker for his analysis and personal perspective. It will certainly help all present to understand some of the nuances of Britain’s and the EU’s positions in months to come.

(Postscript: the tone and substance of the initial meeting between Theresa May and Angela Merkel does seem to have borne out a number of the observations made by Steve Baker in this meeting.)

In the first of two special networking events to consider the post-Brexit landscape, Chiltern Chamber was joined by two excellent outside speakers:

  • Simon Goodfellow, Owner and CIO of Harlyn Research LLP
  • Dr Nick Appleyard, Deputy Director, Government Partnerships, Innovate UK

Simon gave us a brief insight into his quite unique methodology, which eschews forecasting, the staple of nearly all market analysts, in favour of a probability-based analysis of the present, which lets the markets tell their own tale. This has worked over the years for Harlyn Research, across many markets.

Harlyn research presentation to Chiltern Chamber of CommerceThe main takeaways from Simon’s presentation were:

  • A starkly cautious outlook for the Eurozone banks. Not just the Italian banks, but even including the powerhouse Deutsche Bank. US Banks not looking too clever, either!
  • Much brighter prospects within Emerging Markets, which present “A World of Opportunity” – an interesting contrast at a time when Britain is seeking to open new trade avenues.
  • Indicators for UK stock markets in middling territory; “We can talk ourselves into a crisis… or out of it!” As has been evident, the Brexit doomsayers have not been proved right – yet.
  • US Technology – possibly entering a less euphoric phase, awaiting the next ‘big thing’ (the ‘Internet of Things’?)

Nick Appleyard of Innovate UK presented to us only the day after Theresa May had promised “a proper industrial strategy” when launching her Conservative Party leadership bid. Another of Theresa May’s themes was the need to boost productivity – ironically one can argue that the UK’s recent growth has been achieved through migration, rather than through productivity.

Nick Appleyard Innovate UK presents to Chiltern Chamber of CommerceOverall, one had the impression that one of the challenges within Innovate UK is to understand and react to periodic changes in governments and central policy. But its central purpose is consistent: to promote growth and productivity through innovation. Often it facilitates businesses and ideas that are not conventionally bankable, sometimes by helping them make the right connections, sometimes via funding.

We were interested to learn of the extent to which Innovate UK works with Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), and Nick Appleyard showed some fascinating maps, highlighting the diversity of funding by sectors, and the real regional strengths in various sectors. Similarly we learnt of Innovate UK’s involvement with ‘Catapult Centres’, a network of centres of excellence spread around the regions, to help drive the UK’s capability for innovation in specific areas.

An interesting contrast was provided by two maps, displaying destinations of EU funding, against the areas in which Innovate UK has been committing funding. Whilst Innovate UK has been targetting higher-growth areas and regional strengths, EU funding has been designed to support areas of lower prosperity. Implications for the agricultural sector are obvious.

Innovate UK often runs competitions and programmes that will be relevant to businesses in our area. The best way to stay up to date would be to join the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), which is free, and helps promote the various funding opportunities.

Not surprisingly, the underlying message was that little is changing in the immediate future, and that business owners should focus on the present – a theme also of Simon Goodfellow’s presentation.

Chiltern Chamber was glad to sponsor the Bucks Skills Show at University Campus Aylesbury Vale on Saturday 2nd July.

Organised by Chamber Committee member Jackie Campbell and her team at Bucks Skills Hub, this was an experiential careers day aimed at helping 14- to 19-year-olds choose careers, and understand how to achieve them.

There were many excellent stands manned by people keen to share their knowledge, experience and enthusiasm for their sectors. Bucks Skills Hub tells us that there is a particular need in our area to encourage youngsters into the digital, healthcare and engineering sectors, in order to ensure continuing success for these local growth areas. (Interestingly, this was backed up at a subsequent talk to the Chamber by the government’s innovation agency Innovate UK, which noted that the two largest areas for support within the Bucks & Thames Valley LEP have been the digital and healthcare sectors).

The Chamber’s sponsorship helped facilitate the talk of ‘thrill engineer’ Professor Brendan Walker, whose career and inspiring talk demonstrated that a career in engineering can take you to exciting and unexpected places!

At the end of the day, awards were handed out, with the best sector stand going deservedly to Oxford Healthcare. There was considerable talk of how the concept could be rolled out further, for the benefit of more youngsters – perhaps even it could be made mobile? It may be hard to expect the extraordinary investment made by those representing their sectors too often, but we have no doubt that the inaugural Bucks Skills Show will be built upon.

Congratulations Jackie and the Bucks Skills Hub team!

June 28, 2016

It was an excellent Chiltern Chamber breakfast meeting on June 24th, there was a good turnout with people eager to talk about the news that had just been delivered regarding the UK’s vote to exit the EU. The conversations taking place amongst the attendees were mainly centred on the lasting effect the decision will have on their business. Yet I came out of the meeting having learned more from the others about their business than they had either intended for me to learn or from previous discussions we had.

Paul Batey discussing Brexit resultI must confess this article was originally intended to be a supportive one for our members, offering connections, networking, expertise and assistance from the Chiltern Chamber of Commerce. Somehow though, it was difficult to put that down on the page, somehow it just wouldn’t come out and my fingers couldn’t type. There was a niggling kind of feeling, probably buried in my subconscious, that I was missing an important point that had to be dealt with first. I knew only that the niggling thought had started in that very room at that breakfast meeting.

Then it occurred to me, through all of the conversations taking place that morning we had all learned a lot more about each other and our businesses a lot quicker than we normally do at these meetings. Nobody seemed too distressed and distraught at the referendum result, all networking happily and quite a few phone numbers were exchanged and leads for business were shared by the end of the meeting.

Like a sudden light bulb switching on (yes it felt like a ping of realisation) the answer was glaringly obvious: there was a common subject matter that helped break down barriers and opened discussion around their own business. Everyone was sharing details about their own experience and business that they normally wouldn’t discuss without even thinking about it. New attendees felt welcomed into the group and could engage with all present without having to worry about what to talk about.

…a shared subject matter is an excellent way to interact with others.

In fact, it blew the normal business elevator pitches delivered at these meetings clear out of the water. Most people will agree that networking is both a useful and sometimes essential tool that allows you to make contacts, connections and even friends to you and your business and there was a lot of that happening.

Before you batter my door down with pitchforks and flaming torches I am not suggesting that uncertainty is good for business or that the decision to leave the EU is the right one for the UK. I am also not comparing the attendance at a networking event to starting a business or dealing with EU referendum fallout, but it was poignant for me and unbeknown to the group at the time that discussing the effect on their business was a unifying subject matter, a silver lining if you will.

Ultimately, two main things were apparent from this meeting, a shared subject matter is an excellent way to interact with others (seems obvious now, yet surprisingly difficult for those not used to small talk and networking) and also our elevator pitches probably need a little bit of work! We may introduce a regular subject or theme to future meetings with the Chiltern Chamber of Commerce in an attempt to replicate this energised meeting, so watch this space.

Also, please remember that the Chiltern Chamber of Commerce supports local business through Networking, expertise and connections. (you knew I’d get it in there!)

Paul Batey

bucks skills show logoChiltern Chamber is excited to be a sponsor of the Bucks Skills Show, put together by the Bucks Skills Hub.

One of the Chamber’s stated priorities is to encourage local Skills and Training initiatives, to build tomorrow’s workforce. The Bucks Skills Show is an experiential careers showcase enabling young people to experience industry sectors, ask questions about various career pathways and hear inspiring speakers from a range of industries and businesses.

Brendan Walker thrill engineerNone more so than Brendan Walker. The Chamber’s sponsorship has helped Bucks Skills Hub secure a speaker described as “the world’s only Thrill Engineer”. His talk – on ‘Careers in Engineering’ – is sure to be inspiring and eye-opening, suggesting a range of unexpected and exciting directions within and beyond the engineering industry.

Consider Brendan Walker’s own career path, from his profile on the University of Nottingham School of Computer Science web site:

Brendan Walker is a Renaissance Showman – a technology-inspired performance artist described by The Times as “the world’s only Thrill Engineer”. Brendan’s unique brand of live entertainment, contraption building, and scientific experimentation has gained him international notoriety in both the arts and sciences. His multi-faceted Thrill Laboratory performances have provided popular entertainment for audiences from the Science Museum to Alton Towers, featured at Tate Modern and MoMA (New York), whilst also stimulating academic debate. Brendan originally trained as an aeronautical engineer at Imperial College and worked for British Aerospace Military Aircraft for five years before undertaking an MA in Industrial Design Engineering at the Royal College of Art. For eight years he combined his professional practice with working in the research studio of the Computer Related Design Department at the RCA.

Clearly this is the man to make engineering sexy! Chiltern Chamber is proud to have helped Bucks Skills Hub secure his participation.

All about Bucks Skills Show

We strongly recommend the Bucks Skills Show to all 14 to 19-year-olds and their parents.

For more information, including links to register, please visit our earlier news item Bucks Skills Show UCAV 2nd July 2016.