At our world trade summits there is one word beginning with ‘B’ that is always near the top of the agenda. You won’t be surprised to hear that this word is ‘Brexit’ and the UK’s trading position with the EU and the rest of the world will once again be the major discussion point at our summit in Northern Ireland in June.
Businesses across the UK will of course be greatly affected by whatever the outcomes of the negotiations, but the future for businesses in Northern Ireland is even more intriguing with the border to the Republic of Ireland likely to be one of the major issues in talks over the next few years.
Planning for the 'known knowns'
As ever with things ‘Brexit’ we remain in a ‘known unknowns’ and ‘knowns for now’ situation - rather than ‘known knowns’ or even ‘unknown knowns’. As such, the main lessons companies attending the summit are likely to learn are ways of planning for and safeguarding against the different potential ramifications of the Brexit negotiations.
But a couple of the speakers have told me that there are a few things you can be pretty sure about over the next couple of years.
Brian Telford, Head of Markets at Danske Bank – who is speaking at the summit about how to manage fluctuating currency throughout the talks – told me that his main guidance for attendees will be around ways to stay on top of the massive amount of change that is likely to take place.
“Currency is sort of one of the ‘known knowns’ and it’s very much something you can plan a bit more for,” he told me.
“The focus in the talk is about the importance of removing uncertainty and going back to basics and back to understanding what’s caused the volatility in the first place, and once you know that you can plan for it.”
And one of the other things you can be sure of is that there will always be opportunities for doing business overseas – whether that’s in the EU or beyond. Alan Lowry - CEO of Environmental Street Furniture Ltd, one of the case study speakers at the summit - told me:
“My company have been actively seeking opportunities outside the EU trade area for the past few years and whilst it may seem daunting to many locally based SME’s, especially ones as small as we are, the opportunities are huge and the support mechanism locally is fantastic. If you were to title my talk it could be ‘Explore. Dream. Discover’.”
Using the support on offer is vital
Many of the support organisations that have helped companies like Environmental Street Furniture and fellow case study FG Wilson to diversify risk and have a global strategy for post-Brexit will be on show at the summit. Stephen Kelly from Manufacturing NI, Elizabeth McCrory from UK Export Finance, and Sandra Scannell from NI Chamber are all on the line up of industry leading experts. All of the speakers will be giving vital tips and guidance to businesses at a time when sharing information and ideas about how to do business well is more important than ever.
“You can’t get enough sharing of knowledge and information,” Brian from Danske Bank told me. “There’s clearly a lot of unknown outcomes relating to Brexit but what events like the summit do is give businesses the chance to share their thinking and hopefully create opportunities to pick up things they may not have thought of yet - whether it’s seeking new opportunities or identifying and planning for risk in ways they currently aren’t doing.”
And whether it’s for continuing to do trade in the EU or in new markets around the world, using the support on hand, via events like the summit and the support provided by the speaking organisations, is an essential for exporters.
As Alan told me, “use as much of the experience of other local support agencies and local companies as you can”.
Belfast Met Director of Development, Damian Duffy, said: “Belfast Met is thrilled to be hosting the IOE&IT event at our e3 Springvale Campus – the home of the Belfast Business School. We are delighted to welcome so many top businesses and key stakeholders to this event. The new Belfast Business School’s mission is simple… to develop and deliver creative and innovative learning experiences for individuals and workforces in order to challenge and fulfil future industry and business needs. For us, this event is a great opportunity to showcase how Belfast Met Continues to lead the city to work, playing an increasingly active role in the business community, helping firms to find top class employees and upskill existing staff in line with their business requirements.
For further information on Belfast Business School Professional Programmes visit http://www.belfastmet.ac.uk/support-for-business/belfast-business-school/ or contact Laura Dowie at LDowie@belfastmet.ac.uk.
The summit takes place on the morning of June 13 at Belfast Metropolitan College and you can find more details at: