AGENDA Navigating the unknown Full service provider GES and the Event Supplier and Services Association weigh in on the constantly evolving question of Brexit Jason Stead, managing director – UK and Middle East at GES 16 May’s deal gets the thumbs down as I write. The only thing I know for certain is that uncertainty is the new norm. So how to navigate the unknown? GES’ scale, resources and global reach give us a vital head start in our preparations for Brexit – hard or soft. Our footprint in mainland Europe affords us crucial cover on the ground. We have people, resources, production facilities and a proven network of local suppliers to ensure that our European shows and customers enjoy uninterrupted service provision. Our UK shows are supported locally from our UK offices and we have the team and scale here to minimise any disruption. However, we are far from complacent. The free movement of goods and people has been hugely beneficial for our business, removing complexity and cost. Planning and delivery cycles for products may lengthen, so we are building up high-demand stock at our UK warehouses to cover potential delays and liaising closely with exhibitors and partners. International travel may be affected by lengthened passport, visa and customs checks – but we view this as a short-term issue around the time of departure. Our teams already work in 45-plus countries every year – regularly outside the EU. Our international travel partners and logistic teams have extensive experience getting us to all manner of locations, with all the necessary visas, permits and paperwork – on time and ready to deliver. We are on alert but calm; increasing communication with our partners, extending our planning cycles, mobilising our teams on the ground and leveraging our global network. Not quite business as usual, but pretty close. February 2019 | exhibitionnews.co.uk Andrew Harrison, director of ESSA Our goal, over the last two and a half years, has been to stimulate discussion amongst our members about the repercussions of Brexit. We’ve encouraged them to reflect both on their businesses and the industry as a whole. We’ve listened to expert speakers at member events, hosted webinars and distributed all the pertinent government Brexit advice and updates. We’ve passed on relevant reports from respected financial groups, and I believe we’ve done a good job of keeping our members abreast of developments. Engaging with the government has met with some success. Our communications with key personnel and departments has been acknowledged and we have been recognised as speaking for our significant membership of 250 companies on very specific topics. The response from the government, however, has been underwhelming. The replies can be seen on our website, but they can be largely summarised as ‘it is only responsible to plan for every eventuality.’ For two years’ worth of advice, it’s easy to see why some companies are frustrated at the lack of certainty. More than three-quarters of our members are small businesses, and the government’s advice is not realistic for them. Planning for ‘every eventuality’ costs money and time – for small business that means diverting precious resources to try and hit a moving target. At the time of writing this, the government has just experienced the largest defeat of any sitting government since records began. The withdrawal agreement that would have given us some clarity and certainty was resoundingly rejected, leaving us none the wiser and seemingly in exactly the same place as when Article 50 was invoked. By the time this goes to print, we may be beyond the ‘deal or no deal’ scenario…we may even be lining up for another trip to the ballot box. Regardless of peoples’ opinions of what the country is going through, the political landscape in the UK has changed forever. We will not, in my opinion, see the back of this process for a generation or more. This makes it very hard at this time for ESSA to predict what additional support to businesses in membership and the wider event community will be needed in the future, but we will continue to meet every challenge as we have done before, keeping our community of members fully informed, raising their awareness and representing them at the highest level.