Last night Freshfields hosted a first – a live and dynamic evening of discussion on Brexit with contributions from leaders in the worlds of politics, economics and journalism. “Boris, Brexit and the Future of Britain” was held at Milbank Tower with over 200 clients in attendance.
On what was supposed to be the UK’s scheduled exit day from the EU – the event moved quickly to refocus the discussion on what the extension to Article 50 and the upcoming UK General Election meant for clients.
To kick-start the evening there was some high-octane debate between Alastair Campbell (former Director of Communications to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair) and Fiona Hill (former Joint Downing Street Chief of Staff to UK Prime Minister Theresa May). Both offered candid views from different sides of the political spectrum, with Alastair remarking on the uncertainty that is still prevailing around the UK General Election campaign.
The evening continued with panellists including Sam Gyimah MP, Ed Vaizey MP, Nick Boles MP, Alastair Burt MP, journalist Ayesha Hazarika, Sir Ivan Rogers and Lord Jonathan Hill amongst many others.
Through thoughtful and diverse discussions three key themes emerged from the evening’s speakers:
First, we live in volatile political times and the outcome of the UK General Election will be incredibly hard to predict. As Ayesha Hazarika put it, “do not make the same mistake with collective group thinking - everything we thought was not possible has happened.”
Secondly, there was discussion around optimism with regards to the UK’s future economic prospects. Dr Pippa Malmgren talked extensively about how much investment there has been in the UK by foreign investors and how “we live in an unbelievably connected world. Britain could be positioned for a truly extraordinary period of competitiveness.”
Third and finally, we’re likely to see many more difficult years of trade talks between the UK and EU. It became apparent from the panellists’ discussions that this was not going to be a quick process and almost certainly wouldn’t be finished by the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020 – although there is an option for an extension.
On one point there is complete certainty - there will be much to discuss and think about in 2020 and beyond!