As Prime Minister Theresa May gave notice under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty for the UK to quit the European Union, the UK events industry, again, is facing up to the likely challenges ahead.
Chancellor Philip Hammond described the triggering of Article 50 was “a pivotal moment for Britain” and insists the government “will get a deal”. He said EU citizens could still move to the UK and have their full rights while the UK remains “full members of the EU for the next two years”.
Industry association EVCOM’s CEO Steve Garvey commented: “Triggering Article 50 is a major milestone, but our industry has had time to adapt to the Brexit process, so it’s a relief finally to get negotiations started. EVCOM’s members have stated clearly they don’t want uncertainty and they do want to promote their services to international markets. There are questions to be answered over the movement of goods and people, taxation, tariffs, and government support for trade promotion outside the EU. EVCOM members are open for business, ready for the challenge and looking forward to working with our international partners, whatever the outcome of Brexit negotiations.”
This month the Business Visits and Events Partnership (BVEP) launched a major policy document for the UK events industry: ‘Opportunities for Global Growth in Britain’s Events Sector’. It is a policy document outlining the opportunities and challenges that could help Britain achieve a more competitive, more profitable and higher profile as it repositions itself following the decision to leave the EU.
BVEP vice-chair Simon Hughes, said: “The priority now is to focus on the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for the events industry. There is no doubt that events can play a major role in building Britain’s international trading strength by enhancing key components of the government’s emerging industrial strategy. This is a chance to unite behind the key policies outlined in our document now the starting gun has been fired for our exit from the EU. We’re calling on all our partners and everyone in the events industry to get behind the opportunities for global growth in our sector that the next few years could bring.”
Louise Goalen, chair of the HBAA, commented: “In the wake of the Brexit vote last year, where many predicted panic and a surge in cancellations, the industry has proved to be calm and buoyant and some of our members have gained extra business from the weaker pound. However, the need for clarification and action to address the potential shortage of European workers is now increasingly important and pressing.”
Industries crucial to the meetings sector likely to feel most pressure include the car industry and financial services, with transport and airport projects also predicted to suffer if the supply of EU workers dries up, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
The RICS is lobbying for the free movement of skilled labour to be secured during negotiations to leave the EU, otherwise, it says, industry in the UK will be “under threat”. It is an issue heavily lobbied also by the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Events industry and its chair James Heappey, who has long identified the labour source in the EU as a crucial question for the events sector.
Jeremy Blackburn, RICS’ head of UK policy, said a loss of access to the European labour market had the potential to slowly bring some of the UK’s biggest infrastructure projects to a standstill, including new airports and high-speed rail, all important for the events sector.