David Smith, the economics editor of the Sunday Times, believes that North East business would benefit from the UK being part of a European Economic Area post-Brexit.
Speaking at an event organised by Square One Law and Deloitte last month, David highlighted that 58 per cent of exports from the region are sent to the European Union, which is higher than the UK average. Therefore, a deal to maintain this level of exports would be important for the North East.
He said: “This would give us membership of the single market and a customs union, allowing us to negotiate trade.
“It would be inferior to EU membership,” he added, “but better than some of the alternatives, and much better than crashing out without a deal, which would impact on the North East and its exports to the EU.”
Post-event, Ian Gilthorpe, senior partner at Square One Law, reflected: “It was really interesting to hear David’s views on a post-Brexit economy, what it could mean for the North East, and the importance of maintaining trade links with the EU.
“Whatever the outcome of the EU negotiations, our clients will need access to Europe, and, as a firm, we are taking the initiative through our contacts in Brussels to play a part in allaying David’s concerns over the future of the trading relationship with Europe.”
Square One Law has recently announced that it has established a new strategic alliance, Brussels-based EU law practice Kemmlers, which will ensure that its clients have access to European Institutions, as well as giving them a base to have influence within EU’s trading community. It will also offer its clients a full range of EU commercial legal services, under one roof.
Held at the Cleveland Tontine, the dinner was held for a select group of business people and entrepreneurs, from the Tees Valley. Guests were also joined by Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, who highlighted the progress being made in the area, and the dynamism that exists in the local business community.
In addition to giving his views on Brexit, David Smith also discussed the current state of the economy, and the prospects for interest rates.
“Normally slower growth, which we have experienced, would push higher interest rates off the agenda, but the Bank (of England) is getting a bit restless,” he said.
“Of course, any rate rises will be done slowly, and cautiously, and the new norm for interest rates will be closer to 2 per cent.”
David’s speech sparked some lively debate among the assembled guests, most notably on issues including upskilling the North East workforce for modern industries, and delivering improved productivity.
Stephen Hall, office senior partner at Deloitte in the North East, finished the evening by thanking the guests for attending before adding: “We very much appreciate David coming to the region to share his views and expertise. His assessment of the UK economy, its prospects and potential impact on the North East, was very insightful and encouraged plenty of discussion.”