In light of the forthcoming EU referendum, taking place on the 23rd June, the Franco-British Chamber organised on Friday 3rd June a breakfast in association with Hogan Lovells the legal and economic impacts of leaving the EU for the UK.
The conference kicked off with a welcome speech by Olivier Campenon, Vice President of the Chamber, who then introduced James Palmer, Managing Partner at H2D advisory, and moderator of the conference.
Mr Palmer continued with a brief overview of the current situation with the UK, and then asked his first question to Jean-François Gombeaud, Vice President of Financial Engineering at Airbus. Mr Palmer pointed out that Airbus was an excellent example of a very successful enterprise which leveraged off the best abilities of different cultures, and asked how he thought a Brexit would impact the company. Mr Gombeaud explained that indeed, the free movement of people is a key strategy to increase the performance of the company. Having 17, 000 workers in the UK, Airbus would be constrained by the impacts on the flow of people.
Alex Taylor, European Journalist, added that there are over 2 million British people living in Europe, including himself. He shared his personal experience on the benefits of the European Union, which have allowed him to live in other European countries for over 20 years. He also highlighted the fact that he was treated in the exact same manner as any other citizens of the country he resided in, a privilege that would be taken away if Britain were to leave the EU.
Mr Palmer, having a close relative who works at Unilever, expressed the fear of a Brexit for the company, as they would have to change all the packaging, labels, and even contents of many of their products. Mrs Lewis, Partner at Hogan Lovells and hostess of the conference affirmed that it would certainly take an average of 10 years to make the necessary legal changes implied by this change. She also disclosed that the envisaged negotiation period leading to exit on a mutually agreed date had a default of two years, with the only precedent being Greenland, which took three years after their referendum.
Mr Tetreau had a slightly different perspective to the other speakers. According to his research, different studies have shown frightening predictions, where a Brexit would result in 5-10% loss of GDP for the United Kingdom. However, he believed that the UK leaving the EU would also result in many short term opportunities created for citizens of EU countries, such as the availability of new competitive jobs, particularly in European institutions.
Needless to say, the public was very involved once the floor opened up to questions, transforming an enlightening conference into a highly interactive debate. As the speakers shared their wealth of knowledge, it was concluded that the loss of the free trade agreements and access to the EU single market would make businesses suffer from the uncertainty, and be more likely to invest in other countries outside of the UK.
Following the debate, guests were able to deliberate amongst themselves, around a breakfast buffet kindly supplied by Hogan Lovells. We would like to thank all the speakers and participants in the conference, and particularly Hogan Lovells, for hosting this eye opening conference.
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