Brexit has led local IPAs and local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) across the UK to develop their own strategies amid continuous uncertainty over the future role of the country on the global trade chessboard.

With the UK government struggling to give substance to the promise of a ‘Global Britannia’, local IPAs have been taking steps to think beyond Brexit and design business propositions able to withstand any possible outcome of the negotiations taking place in London and Brussels.

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Relationship guidance

Marketing Derby believes that the city’s global trade relationships will become particularly important to maintain and nurture following Brexit. China and India are at the top of the agency’s priority list.

“The city council is developing trading relationships with China and has established strong links with its twin city of Hefei in Anhui province, culminating in the recent appointment of its first China project director, based in Hefei representing both the city and the county of Derbyshire,” says Katie Delve, inward investment executive at Marketing Derby. “Recently, the city council also signed a memorandum of understanding with a delegation of officials from Kolkata in West Bengal, as the first steps toward a successful link with India.”

Dorset’s LEP is also making efforts to strengthen existing ties around the world and establish new ones. Representatives of the local business community have visited several states in the US and Canada covering key sectors for inward investment, and further marketing visits are planned to Qatar and the Far East to take place mid-2019, according to Finn Morgan, business engagement and Dorset Gateway manager.  

Other IPAs, including Thames Valley Berkshire LEP, are combining their internationalisation efforts with the creation of a purely local industrial strategy. They follow local bodies such as the West Midlands Combined Authority, which unveiled its industrial strategy in late 2018 to unlock the region’s potential, regardless of what the final Brexit outcome may be. 

Finding the upside

When it comes to addressing investors’ questions about Brexit investors may have, IPAs are trying to focus on the positives.

“Brexit negotiations are forcing businesses to develop strategic plans in the face of many unknowns, and often the discussion revolves around this and the scenario planning for many different eventualities,” says Marketing Derby’s Ms Delve. “While negotiations are ongoing, we reiterate the strength of Derby’s economy; many global businesses have chosen to base themselves here. Post-Brexit, our impressive infrastructure, skilled workforce and central location will continue to be desirable traits for investors. Regardless of Brexit, we are used to working with fluctuating conditions where dips and recessions affect investors’ decision-making processes in both domestic and foreign markets.”

Worcestershire LEP prefers to see the Brexit glass half-full, rather than half-empty, according to investment manager Stuart Emmerson. “I explain future opportunities that are opened up with new markets as opposed to dwelling on the negative,” he says.