Brexit: The industry reacts

Claire Dodd

Claire Dodd

24 June 2016

The hospitality industry has begun to react to the UK’s divisive decision to leave the European Union; a move that has already seen prime minister David Cameron step down and the pound plummet.

The final tally saw the UK vote 52% to 48% in favour of an exit, despite London, Scotland and Northern Ireland voting to remain.

So far there has been mixed reaction from the trade, as businesses and trade bodies absorbed the news.

The London stock market has plunged more than 8% this morning as the value of the pound fell more than 10% against the dollar, its lowest rate since 1985. David Cameron has said he will step down by October.

Addressing concerns, Bank of England governor Mark Carney this morning said: 'It will take some time for the United Kingdom to establish new relationships with Europe and the rest of the world.

'Some market and economic volatility can be expected as this process unfolds. But we are well prepared for this. The Bank will not hesitate to take additional measures as required as those markets adjust and the UK economy moves forward.

'There will be no initial change in the way our people can travel, in the way our goods can move or the way our services can be sold.'

Pro-Leave campaigner, JD Wetherspoon founder and chairman Tim Martin said: 'The referendum result will enhance freedom and security.

'Anxiety about the economic effects of independence during the campaign was misplaced. The UK will thrive as an independent country, making its own laws, and we will work with our good friends and neighbours in Europe and elsewhere to ensure a positive outcome for all parties.

'The most important factor now is to work together for our mutual benefit. On a practical level, from my experience of running a business, the key factor now is to avoid the appearance and the reality of rushing to "do a deal" with the EU. There is plenty of time and the UK is in an immensely strong position. A period of calm, reflection and discussion will be beneficial.'

Meanwhile, the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) chief executive Kate Nicholls urged businesses to carry on as normal. 'The EU referendum will, in time, prove momentous. However, for the moment, business will and must continue as normal.

'In the months ahead, while the impact of the decision unfolds, the ALMR will work closely with the Government and its agencies to protect the commercial interests of our members. We are reassured to hear from the Governor of the Bank of England that he is fully prepared to back the UK economy and support British business and that clear messages should reassure consumers, investors and operators.

'While the uncertainties that will result from the referendum's outcome are unwelcome, the fact is that the UK has spoken about an issue that it holds close to its heart. From here, all parties must move forward in a manner that best serves the UK's citizens – our teams and our guests as well as our businesses, including the pubs, clubs and restaurants that remain at the heart of our society.

'In the immediate future it is crucial that the government send out a clear message that Britain remains open for business in order to reassure investors, reduce uncertainty and shore up consumer confidence. We are pleased that this has already begun. In the medium term, impacts on business will depend chiefly on the future relationship the next Prime Minister negotiates with the EU. From our industry's perspective it is vital that free movement of people is retained.'


'Though we don't expect a bonfire of regulation, the decision to leave the EU will give the government greater flexibility to adjust factors such as VAT and alcohol duties, which can have an enormous bearing on the health of our sector. Outside the EU it would be possible to have a differential duty regime based on point of sale or a significantly lower sales tax. Similarly, there are reams of environmental, food and labelling legislation initiating in Brussels and though we would not expect these to be a priority over the coming years as the UK disentangles itself, in the longer term there is the possibility for a significant reduction in burdens on property-based businesses.'

Ufi Ibrahim, CEO of the British Hospitality Association (BHA) said: 'On Monday 27th June the British Hospitality Association is convening its members, industry and political leaders to discuss economic and political ramifications in the short term. We will be framing a plan to ensure that we have a seat at the table on all negotiations including taxation, immigration and regulation.

'As we go through this process, the BHA will call upon every politician in this country to do all they can to guard the strong reputation that our industry has built representing a hospitable and welcoming country all around the world. Our industry is one of the key drivers of exports, prosperity and the fourth largest employer supporting 4.5 million jobs.'

BBPA Chief Executive, Brigid Simmonds, said: 'It is vital that the Government acts quickly to secure economic stability and protect consumer confidence. We will be vigilant to ensure the Brexit negotiations do not harm our exports abroad and the competitive position of beer and pubs in Britain.'

Drinks makers, whose businesses rely heavily on exports, have begun to urge the government to secure the best possible trade deals in upcoming EU severance negotiations.

David Frost, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said: 'The process of leaving the EU will inevitably generate significant uncertainty. Of course, we are confident Scotch whisky will remain the pre-eminent international spirit drink.  But equally, there are serious issues to resolve in areas of major importance to our industry and which require urgent attention, notably the nature of future trade arrangements with both the single market and the wider world.

'We urge thoughtful and serious consideration by all parties so that we can secure the best possible continued access to the EU and other export markets on which Scotch whisky's success has been built, whilst minimising costs and complexity.'


A Diageo spokesperson said: 'We respect the views of the British people  in the EU referendum. As one of the UK’s leading exporters, Diageo remains committed to the long term prosperity of the Scotch whisky industry and will now work closely with our industry bodies to seek clarity on the transition process. It is a priority that the UK continues to benefit from open access to the EU as well as favourable international trade agreements to protect the UK’s important export industries, including Scotch whisky.'


Edited 24/06/2016 to include additional comment from the ALMR, as well as comments from the BHA, BBPA and Diageo.

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