On 6 October 2016 Foot Anstey, one of the UK's fastest growing law firms, hosted a 'Question Time' style panel debate focusing on how the rural business community should prepare for the future post the Brexit decision.
The event was particularly timely following the recent Conservative party conference and the first indication of a timeline for exiting the EU. The event was attended by over 80 rural business leaders and influencers.
The panel was hosted by Foot Anstey's Chairman and head of Private Wealth, Simon Gregory and included Neil Parish MP, Tim Jones, Chairman of Devon & Cornwall Business Council and Alex Stevens, Regional Policy Manager for the NFU. The panel was completed by local dairy farmer and cheese producer, Mary Quicke MBE, David Lowes, renewable energy developer and Devon farmer and Nicole Sykes, Senior policy advisor at the CBI.
Neil Parish set the scene for the event saying that what the UK needs to do now is “all about confidence; confidence in this country, confidence in our ability to trade and confidence that we will do well.” He stressed that “agriculture will be at the heart of negotiations on trade” as discussions with the EU progress.
Mr Parish said: “Agriculture and food manufacturing represents a huge part of this country's industry and it is encouraging to see debate such as this taking place. It is important that everyone working in this area speaks out in order to ensure that the needs of rural businesses and communities are at the forefront of the minds of those at Westminster and the public.”
Alex Stevens added: “It was a pleasure to take part in an event that brought together so many rural professionals to discuss the key themes, concerns and opportunities that the Brexit vote brings. The NFU recently carried out extensive consultations with all members which identified themes that included food security & profitability, trade deals, import standards, a domestic agriculture policy, labour availability for the whole supply chain, strengthening farmers’ environmental role and ensuring that regulation is evidence based.”
Alex added: “It is vital that rural voices are heard loud and clear while Brexit discussions take place and events such as the Foot Anstey debate are another mechanism to ensure that those with any influence over policy are continually reminded of the issues impacting rural businesses and communities.”
Simon Gregory, said: “We deliberately entitled this event 'Brexit: preparing for the future'; as a firm working with a wide range of businesses and individuals we've felt that our role has been to listen to our clients' to understand their challenges and opportunities and help them navigate this journey.
“Whatever side of the fence you were on during the referendum, we all now have a part to play in deciding how things progress, and we feel that in times of uncertainty it is crucial to promote cohesion in our communities and show the world that the UK is open for business.”
“These are themes we want to continue to work on with our clients across different industries and sectors, and today's event gave us much food for thought in terms of how we can support British agriculture, which is so important to our region and rural communities.”
“Thank you to our panel for such a lively and expert debate and the Two Moors festival for their excellent artistic contribution.”
The event was in collaboration with the local Two Moors festival and included an art exhibition by local artist and surveyor Philip Kerr, who encouraged everyone to take time to appreciate art to support wellbeing. The award-winning wind musicians 'Gelachter Trio' finished the event with a performance of music from Mozart, Elgar and Gershwin. Philip's exhibition can be seen at Foot Anstey's Exeter office until 6 December 2016.