If just over 5 years ago I had told you that by Autumn 2021 the UK would have left the European Union and be recovering from the grips of a global pandemic, you would have no doubt looked at me rather quizzically. The referendum result in June 2016 sent economic and political shock waves throughout the UK, Europe and the wider world…and so began 5 years of party-political preening and jockeying for position, whilst individuals and businesses tried to comprehend what it actually meant in practice. That Covid-19 reared its devastating head in the 12 months leading up to the day that the reality of Brexit really hit, only added to the once in a generation economic fallout.
Navigating the new relationship between the UK and the EU remains one of the biggest challenges for businesses. Even those who had the foresight – or perhaps more pertinently, the time and resource available – to plan effectively for Brexit have been caught cold by some of the developments of the last 12 months. With this in mind, the way in which the national and, in particular, local business community has come together takes on extra significance. The Chamber of Commerce has been at the forefront of this – whether it be the British Chambers of Commerce lobbying government around Brexit policy and Covid-19 support, or the Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber delivering this support “on the ground” and being a voice for local businesses on the national stage.
The H&W Chamber has always played an important role in the delivery of Department of International Trade service to local businesses who export or are looking to access the international market. In addition to this, the dedicated EU-Exit hub has a broad spectrum of content that is hugely beneficial to those businesses struggling with the impact of Brexit. This includes a variety of training courses delivered by Strong & Herd LLP as well as information concerning key areas of consideration, such as taxation & insurance, workforce planning, regulatory compliance and many more. The impact of Brexit continues to be felt by many organisations and if yours is one of them, I would highly recommend contacting the Chamber for more information or taking a look at the hub online: www.hwchamber.co.uk/eu-exit-hub.
Covid-19 presented an altogether different challenge to business…and one that happened so rapidly it was virtually impossible to plan how to deal with it. Once again, the impact is very real and once again, The Chamber has used its position and network to quickly respond to the crisis. Thousands of conversations took place with the membership to understand how the restrictions were impacting businesses, both individually and collectively. Webinars regarding key Covid issues were set up, giving people a chance to share experiences and best practice, whilst a new Coronavirus Support Hub was established to allow members to access and understand the myriad of information and support available.
I am often asked “what exactly is it that the Chamber does?”…and when I talk through all the various services, training and support it provides, people are taken aback. I wanted to use this edition’s article to highlight the real value of some of the initiatives that the Chamber has delivered on in recent times. The topic of this BD edition is “The UK in a Changing World”…but what is clear is that some things never change. This includes the importance of accessing support and information in a timely manner and working effectively as a community to overcome even the biggest of obstacles. It is in this context that the Chamber of Commerce can be – and, indeed, has been – a vital body.
Now, going back to my opening statement…there is a chance, of course, that you would have nodded sagely if I had suggested the Brexit result and global pandemic. If this is the case, then I suggest you go grab yourself a lottery ticket and prepare for a comfortable retirement! The rest of us will continue as best we can to support each other as a cohesive business network whilst we navigate the ever-changing world that the UK has come to be in.
Director of Hewett Recruitment and President of the Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce
As seen in the Chamber Direction Business Magazine