INTERNATIONAL POWERHOUSE VISION – FOR SOUTH WEST
First panel debate: Chair Tom Cargill, BFPG, Imogen Kirwan, Student from Exeter University, Romilly Greenhill, from the One Group, and Edward Hobart from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
OVER 30 delegates attended an international summit in Exeter and organised by the British Foreign Policy Group (BFPG), and Exeter University – looking at an international vision for the South West region post-Brexit.
Two panel discussions were chaired by Tom Cargill and Myles Wickstead CBE, and part of a series of debates being held by the (BFPG) across the country, and aiming to generate a greater public discussion about the UK’s international position and choices, said Mr Cargill.
Mr Cargill, said: “The (BFPG) is a think-tank that provides accessible and objective information on the UK’s foreign policy choices. We look at the complex issues of trade, diplomacy, and security interests, and building important links with the public, policy makers, business leaders, media, and stakeholders, on how our communities and regions across the country can make the most out of our considerable assets – in supporting local prosperity, and security interests.”
Second panel debate: Chair Myles Wickstead CBE, Sir Hugo Swire, MP for East Devon, Linda Middleton- Jones, Director, Devon Chamber of Commerce, Alistair Handyside, SW Tourism Alliance, and Victoria Hatfield, Exeter City Council.
The conference was opened by Sir Steve Smith, Vice Chancellor of Exeter University and panelists included; Sir Hugo Swire MP for East Devon, Edward Hobart, The Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Linda Middleton-Jones of the Devon Chamber, Romilly Greenhill, The One Campaign, Alistair Handyside, SW Tourism, Victoria Hatfield, Exeter City Council, and Imy Kirwan (BFPG Student Ambassador at Exeter University.
Linda Middleton-Jones, director at the Devon Chamber of Commerce, and International Trade Matters, said: “There appears to be very little drive or ambition to approach overseas markets. Local companies seem to react to overseas enquiries rather than taking the choice to plan for export.”
“A significant amount of businesses have no conception of the requirements of customs and documentation, and the confusion caused over negotiations on Brexit has given many firms an excuse to delay future planning for growth,” she said.
“There is no urgency to replace or underpin European relationships, and the SW is dominated by SME’s who do not see the relevance of an international agenda, and there is no coordinated campaign across delivery agents – to engage and support them.”
“We are dominated by the London powerhouse and achieving ‘outputs’ set outside of our region,” said Ms Middleton-Jones.
Local outputs and targets should be set that are relevant and aspirational for a ‘South West powerhouse’, and in partnership between the DIT, Chambers of Commerce, Institute of Export, and those organisations and businesses pushing the international agenda, she said.
The debates also discussed how the South West’s transport and airport links can be improved, the role of the Local Enterprise Partnerships in the region, lobbying local MPs in parliament, but also creating a bigger regional voice for SW tourism and a West Country ‘Green Agenda’ selling its rural and fishing communities.