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Kent Business Debate 2019 panel session

In a survey of leading Kent business executives, taken at the Business Vision LIVE event, 77% said they were positive about the prospects for future growth.

Held during the recent Business Vision LIVE event, the Kent Business Debate saw around 100 invited business leaders come together to debate the opportunities and challenges facing Kent and beyond.

The event, co-sponsored by us alongside Brachers, opened with a survey of attendees to establish their perspective on the prospects for business growth over the next 12-24 months. Of those who responded, 64% said they were quite positive, and a further 13% said they were very positive.

Following the survey, the event moved on to the discussion with a panel including our Chairman Clive Stevens, and Erol Huseyin from Brachers. Alongside them were Barbara Cooper, representing Kent County Council and Paul Winter from Kent manufacturing business Wire Belt.

Questions, which had been gathered from the audience, were put to the panel by the debate’s chair, Jo James from Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce. The first went to Clive Stevens and asked if the UK does leave the EU, will businesses need to update their accountancy software to deal with more complex customs regulations and processes.

Clive told the audience that Brexit will change the accounting landscape for businesses once we finally leave the EU, particularly for businesses that import and export. He went on to reassure that: “Technology and online accounting software is, however, increasingly capable of managing this, as the recent Making Tax Digital changes have demonstrated”.

Erol was then asked if there are any significant changes to UK commercial law in the pipeline over the next couple of years. “There are some changes already in progress,” said Erol. “For example, the Privacy Regulation is expected to come into force soon, building upon GDPR.

“But regardless of whether we have a deal or no-deal Brexit, we will see an enormous amount of change within the legal system over the coming years. We have a huge amount of EU law on our statute books, and a lot of it has to be reworked to fit on a domestic basis.”

Paul was asked if the UK’s relatively low productivity level is the problem it is made out to be, and if so, what could make us more competitive? In response, Paul said:” I find it difficult to understand why there is a gap between the UK’s productivity and that of similar economies. But it is a major challenge.

“I have found benchmarking, against global and UK standards, as a useful tool for measuring productivity in a business, and the impact of activities designed to improve it. The Office of National Statistics offers a handy tool, and guidance for using it, through their productivity benchmarking service.”

Erol was then asked what the legal position was if a contract which was made before Brexit was considered by a party to no longer be viable after the UK leaves the EU. “For contracts in place prior to Brexit the legal system will not help any party leave that contract simply because the terms are now uneconomic or the commercial conditions have changed,” explained Erol. “That is unless that has been written into the contract. So, we advise businesses to include Brexit based provisions in any new contracts.”

The final question asked the panel what they felt the future held for Kent. Clive drew the audience’s attention to our Going for Growth report which showed that Kent was bucking the UK trend in terms of business positivity. “This outlook, despite the current uncertainty, helps to realise the opportunities we are presented with and will contribute to the potential for future growth,” he said.

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