Brexit view from abroad ‘an intriguing mix’, says Ward Hadaway
19th September 2016
OTHER countries view the UK decision to leave the EU with a mixture of apprehension, uncertainty and optimism, according to law firm Ward Hadaway.
The firm, which has offices in Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle, made the comments after canvassing the opinions of professional services advisors at companies around the world.
Ward Hadaway invited fellow members of Geneva Group International (GGI), its international network and one of the world’s largest alliance of independent professional services firms, to write about their reaction to Brexit and its potential effects on business in the UK and across the world.
The resulting articles, from professionals in Europe, the Far East, Asia, Australia and the USA, make for interesting reading with a wide variety of views and perspectives on what the UK leaving the EU will mean in markets around the world.
Colin Hewitt (pictured), Partner and Head of Commercial at Ward Hadaway, led the initiative and commissioned the articles.
He explained: “Whilst a lot has been said and written about Brexit from a UK point of view, there has been comparatively little attention paid to what our trading partners make of the vote when in many cases, they will be having to deal with the consequences of Britain leaving the EU almost as much as us.
“As a result, we thought it was important to see what our fellow members of GGI and their countrymen felt about Brexit to get a broader perspective on what it could mean for our clients and for business as a whole.
“GGI has over 500 member firms based in more than 120 countries across the world so it was an ideal way to test the international water on Brexit – and the responses proved to add up to an intriguing mix of opinions and analysis.”
Reactions received ranged from surprise and fears of a downturn in trade to those who thought the move could be a positive one for the UK and for their own country.
For example, Vijesh Zinzuwadia, a chartered accountant from Indian firm Zinzuwadia & Co in Ahmedabad, said: “We deal with many clients having trade relations between India and the UK and we believe that Brexit will have a favourable impact on the trade relations between the two countries.”
Vijesh cited the potential for the UK to negotiate its own bespoke trade deal with India, building on historic and long-lasting business relationships between the two countries, as a reason for this assessment, although he tempered it with the need for the UK to maintain favourable trade relationships with the EU if it was to continue acting as a distribution point for Indian-produced goods and services.
The potential for the UK to stop being a conduit for countries looking to sell into the EU was also on the mind of Tony Shao, a Partner at the Horizon Group, an accountancy practice based in Beijing.
Tony said: “Chinese enterprises may now face challenges in using Britain’s position as a gateway to expand their businesses in other European countries after Brexit as many of them use UK headquarters to cover their business in other EU countries.”
He said UK companies looking to sell to China would be helped by the fall in the value of the pound but he also cited the fears of China’s number two, Premier Li Keqiang, who has said that the prospect of Brexit was “adding to uncertainty in the world economy”.
Australia has also been taking a keen interest in the situation. Steven Humphries and Danton Stoloff, from McCabes Lawyers in Sydney, said that whilst making UK imports to Australia cheaper, Brexit also meant that “Australia will lose its mouthpiece inside the EU just as it commences the early stages of renegotiating a trade agreement with the EU”.
Across the Atlantic, US lawyer Holly A Dyer from Kansas firm Foulston Siefkin LLP said that companies and their legal representatives were keeping a close eye on how Brexit develops, mindful of the “far-ranging consequences” it could have when majority-owned US multi-national enterprises based in the UK had sales of $643 billion in 2013.
So how do other European countries view the UK’s planned exit from the EU?
Interestingly, some commentators see the situation as a greater problem for the EU than for the UK.
Professor Teodoro D. Cocca, member of the Board of Directors at GGI and Professor of Asset Management and member of the Research Institute for Banking and Finance at Johannes Kepler University in Linz, said: “Instead of wracking one’s brains considering the ramifications of Brexit for the UK, it seems to me that the potential consequences for the EU are far more alarming.”
He argues that the EU without the UK will be “less diverse, less liberal, less economy-orientated, less influential, less affluent, and arguably less democratic” and that Brexit has to be “the catalyst for fundamental discussions within EU institutions”.
Dr Andreas Weinzierl from Austrian law firm Tramposch & Partner said that the result of the EU referendum had led some parties to call for Austria to leave the EU.
He added that Brexit would create “a huge impact on legal issues in cross border trade” in Europe, but Austria looked forward to continuing its political and economic relationship with the UK, Austria’s eighth largest trading partner.
German lawyer Dr Karl Friedrich Dumoulin from FPS Law said Brexit raised a number of important questions but added: “I am convinced that – contrary to what is sometimes published in the media – at the end prudence will prevail and most of these questions will be dealt with in a fair and adequate manner in the “Brexit treaty” between the UK and the EU.”
Colin Hewitt said: “This exercise has produced an intriguing mix of opinions from professionals around the world, demonstrating that Brexit is engaging the minds of people many thousands of miles from the UK.
“It also underlines the fact that, wherever people are from, no-one has all the answers to the many questions which Brexit has brought about.”
The articles are available in full on the Ward Hadaway website, which also includes a briefing from Ward Hadaway’s own lawyers on key issues facing UK businesses.
To find out more, please click here.