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Former UK-EU ambassador gives talk in Newcastle

A former UK Ambassador to the EU has given a talk in Newcastle about the potential consequences of a remain versus no-deal Brexit for the country.

Sir Ivan Rogers discussed his thoughts on the current situation and its possible outcomes in front of many of the region’s leading businesspeople at law firm Ward Hadaway’s Quayside offices.

The session was organised and chaired by Richard Swart, honorary vice president of the North East England Chamber of Commerce, and hosted by Colin Hewitt, partner and head of the commercial team at Ward Hadaway.

Sir Ivan was a leading advisor to a number of Cabinets until he resigned as UK Ambassador to the EU in 2016, providing him with a unique insight into the Brexit process.

In his opening comments, chairperson Richard Swart said: “Sir Ivan is one of the country’s leading experts on the subject of Brexit having worked with colleagues in Westminster, the EU and internationally for over three decades, serving successive Prime Ministers.

“He’s here to give his thoughts and try and help separate fact from fiction so that we can all make informed choices when it comes to our businesses.”

Sir Ivan told attendees that he was convinced the UK was heading for a no deal Brexit, and feared for the future of the UK, adding: “I do think that the EU would rather avoid a no deal situation with the British if they possibly can, but I feel the two sides are currently poles apart in terms of finding common ground.”

He went on to say that he believed the country would leave the Single Market and Customs Union after Brexit but stressed that it shouldn’t be in a disorderly way and that there should be free trade agreements in place.

He said: “The reality is a trade deal with the EU is not something that could ever be negotiated quickly, we cannot do that at speed.

“The government would need to unravel nearly 45 years of history and that is not something that is easily done, it takes time.

“Article 50 is only designed to deal with the withdrawal from the EU, and not what happens afterwards. Everything is still to be negotiated, even if we leave on 31 October.”

Sir Ivan also visited Sunderland, Durham, and Teesside as part of his tour of the North East.