Britain’s industries call for Brexit to be underpinned by a vision for economic and social renewal

A new report from cross-party think tank Demos highlights the uneven impacts that Brexit will pose for the UK’s different industrial sectors, and sets out a path forward for Britain’s withdrawal to represent a “once in a generation” opportunity to rethink our economic and social landscape.

Making the Most of Brexit reflects the insights of three cross-sectoral expert summits Demos held with the support of the Friends Provident Foundation in London during February 2017 – exploring the risks and opportunities of Brexit for labour markets, social and environmental outcomes, and industry, trade and devolution.

Based on the findings of these summits, the report urges the Government to develop distinct sectoral plans as the basis of more nuanced negotiations for trade agreements, and to demonstrate an understanding of how specific areas of the economy will be affected by the type of deal the Government is able to negotiate.

The consultations with leaders from business, academia, civil society and national and local government, have thrown into focus the critical need for stakeholders with expertise from different sectors of the economy to be involved in the negotiation process.

They also revealed concern amongst different industries around the Government employing either overly defensive or aggressive tactics: a defensive approach – assuming Brexit is inherently dangerous and prioritising keeping as many benefits of EU membership as possible – could leave us unambitious in negotiations, while an overly aggressive strategy risks alienating European partners and obscuring the potential risks of the UK’s departure.

The report encourages the Government and business alike to see Brexit as an opportunity for “blank slate” policy-making – producing better outcomes, stronger linkages between different groups (such as private and third-sector organisations), and to accelerate the process of devolution through tailored industrial strategies reflecting different needs and interests.

It underscores the opportunity that this “fundamental reset” presents for levelling-up Britain’s productivity levels, but also cautions that this will require significant, targeted investment in skills, education and new capital, as well as a nuanced and realistic immigration policy.
Overall, the report calls for the Government’s approach to Brexit to be underpinned by a holistic vision for economic and social renewal – formed from a national conversation that includes the views of businesses, the third sector, devolved administrations and citizens themselves.

The Government should recognise the substantial expertise that many groups outside of Whitehall can bring to the negotiation process and for ensuring a smooth transition and prosperous future for Britain.

Commenting on the findings, Claudia Wood, Chief Executive at Demos, said: “Yes, Brexit poses risks for the UK economy, but so too does it present unique opportunities – not least to have a national conversation about what we want our economy and society to look like over the longer term. Negotiators have to be alert to this once in a lifetime opportunity for renewal and engage the third sector, businesses, local and devolved government and the public accordingly.”

Danielle Walker Palmour, Director at Friends Provident Foundation, said: “In the post Brexit world we’re entering, a vision for change will be vital. The insight gleaned from these three summits demonstrates the invaluable contribution civil society can make to creating that vision, most importantly one that is owned beyond Whitehall.”

The full report can be read here.

The report also analysed the impact of Brexit on the UK’s regions and industries. A summary of these findings can be read here.

NOTES TO EDITORS –
This report, Making the Most of Brexit is the result of three cross-sectoral expert summits held in London during February 2017, exploring the risks and opportunities of Brexit for labour markets, social and environmental outcomes, and industry, trade and devolution.

About Demos
Demos is Britain’s leading cross-party think tank: an independent, educational charity, which produces original and innovative research. Visit: demos.co.uk

About the Friends Provident Foundation
The Friends Provident Foundation is an independent, endowed charity, created in 2001 after the demutualisation of Friends Provident Life Office. Our vision is of a fairer economy and a better society. We work towards this through grants, social investments, mainstream investments and building networks and communications.

Media Contact
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