As Part of our Monday Talks series, we have conducted an interview with Arnaldo Abruzzini, Eurochambres CEO, to discuss the impact of Brexit process on European businesses.
Vocal Europe: How do you asses the outcome? Did you expect such a result?
Arnaldo Abruzzini: We would have preferred not to deal with such a result, but now we have to. It’s really too early to speculate about its impact, so we prefer not to. No-one at this stage really knows what the implications are. The decision of British people has been autonomous and independent. They now have to deal with this internally (Scotland, Northern Ireland, youth against senior,…) and economically (City, London, financial markets, trade…). For all those remaining, it is a chance for a change in narrative and activity.
Vocal Europe: What happens now? It seems that Britain is now entering a difficulty negotiating period on the terms of its exit, which could drag on for years. What should we expect from such a period in terms of business ties between Britain and the EU?
Arnaldo Abruzzini: From a business perspective, our hope is that economic ties will remain as tight as possible between the EU and the UK. We strive to make this possible with neighbouring countries like Turkey and Ukraine…so we should do even more so with a strategic business partner such as the United Kingdom.
Vocal Europe: How will Brexit impact especially the SMEs all around Europe?
Arnaldo Abruzzini: It is extremely difficult to gauge at this stage the commercial implications. For now, our advice to companies would be to continue doing business with the UK as in the past. The process will take two years once it’s formally launched (and the UK are suggesting that this should not be until a new Prime Minister has been elected and possibly a general election has taken place in the autumn). It may even drag on until the current EU legislative term ends in mid-2019. And a lot of water will certainly flow under the bridge in the meantime…
Vocal Europe: As you might follow, populist parties in other EU member states were the first to react to the news, with Geert Wilders of the Dutch anti-Islam and eurosceptic Party for Freedom calling for their own referendum, he said: “We want be in charge of our own country, our own money, our own borders, and our own immigration policy,” he said. “If I become prime minister, there will be a referendum in the Netherlands on leaving the European Union as well. Let the Dutch people decide.” Are you concerned that such exit(s) can take place in different EU member states in the coming months and years?
Arnaldo Abruzzini: The prospect of Brexit contagion is real and yes, it is a source of concern to the Chamber network. We cannot deny that a union of 28 has created difficulties and disagreement about what kind of EU the member states want and how to achieve it. Such challenges will not go away with 27 member states, but the UK referendum result should encourage us to re-focus on shared values.
In addition we need a new narrative. Looking at the generation-gap within the voting results in the UK, we have one lesson to learn: we need to invest in young people, new businesses, and innovative ideas. They represent the Europe that we want for the future!