Brexit Talks Breakfast in association with FBCCI: L‘impact de Brexit sur les enterprises hors de l’Union Européen

The burning topic of Brexit made for a fascinating and fact-packed joint breakfast meeting for ABIE and Franco-British Chamber of Commerce and Industry members on Tuesday, 9April.

While ABIE has teamed up with the Franco-British Chamber for events on previous occasions, this was the first time a business breakfast seminar has been organised together.

Held at the Keolis Group headquarters, the event proved to be a great success with a full house and a trio of top-quality international speakers:

Problems or opportunities?

Brexit is a challenging time for all, they agreed, and change poses problems. But it also brings opportunities.

“Whatever happens,” said Olivier Campenon, Chairman of the Management Board of the Lefebvre Sarrut Group, “We will still do big business with Britain.”

His advice to companies? Be prepared. Act now. “We are convinced there will be an agreement, not a crash out.”

He said of the 270 companies that had moved all or part of their businesses into Europe, 40 had come to Paris, and 40 to Frankfurt.

“But London will still stay as the Number One financial place in the world,” he emphasised.

Impacts on companies

After a thought-provoking review of current Brexit options, Jenna Rennie, Senior Associate for Dispute Resolution, White & Case, focused on some areas of impact on companies: contracts, data protection and trade rules. She stressed the importance of reviewing current contracts in a context of continuing uncertainty.

“Can you keep performing these contracts?” she asked.  “Look to where the crunch points are, consider whether you can make use of price adjusgment or termination clauses, and consider building in clauses in future contracts to help cope with change.”

Companies may need to register or establish a presence in the EU if they have been using the UK as gateway to Europe.

As to the trade implications if there is no deal, she pointed out that 92 per cent of trade from outside the EU to the UK would be temporarily tariff free. She also noted that Australia and the UK had entered into a Mutual Recognition Agreement, ensuring that conformity assessment certification for goods would continue to be recognised. Australia and the UK had also entered into a separate agreement allowing trade in wine between the two countries to continue smoothly.

Australia and global trade

Bernard Tabary, CEO of Keolis International, emphasized the importance of the EU as a market for Australia. It is Australia’s second largest trading partner after China. He indicated that Australia’s decision to commence negotiations on an FTA with the EU reflects that strong relationship.

Australia is also an attractive location for European businesses within the Asia Pacific region. There are strong bilateral investment flows that have facilitated the establishment of some 2,400 EU companies in Australia. This situation is unlikely to change significantly with Brexit.

From his point of view, in the long-term Brexit would change little in a country that had the merits the UK has. “The country will transcend the problems of Brexit,” he assured.

“Brexit will not change much for us at Keolis,” he said. “Companies thrive on being agile and reacting positively to challenges.”

After a lively Q&A session, participants were able to continue discussions and networking over coffee and croissants.