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Brexit or Covid – Which one is to blame for Britain’s business issues?

Dr Steve McCabe reflects on the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit upon businesses, and how Birmingham City University is helping to address both of these business issues.
Photo of Dr Steve McCabe

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Brexit or Covid – Which one is to blame for Britain’s business issues?

Dr Steve McCabe reflects on the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit upon businesses, and how Birmingham City University is helping to address both of these business issues.
Photo of Dr Steve McCabe

Brexit-related business issues

Brexit continues to have deep ramifications for businesses across the West Midlands.

According to a recent report from the Centre for Brexit Studies:

  • 47 percent of local businesses said they have found it more difficult to import goods from the EU;
  • 28 percent suffering border delays;
  • 35 percent lacking the capacity to deal with additional documentation requirements.

Much has been made of the skills shortages in HGV drivers, but businesses have also faced issues in attracting workers for professional services.

Widespread disruption

Flash back to early 2020 and no one would have predicted that Brexit would be relegated to second billing by another story.

However, since March 2020, Brexit has taken somewhat of a backseat as the Covid-19 pandemic has caused widespread chaos and disruption to economies and supply chains across the globe.

The impact of Covid-19 on businesses has been severe, with public-facing sectors such as hospitality and leisure having a particularly torrid time. Only the use of furlough ensured the unemployment rate did not reach the heights it did in the early 1980s.

Despite measures that’ve resulted in the government borrowing £299 billion in the twelve months to April 2021 – the highest amount since recording of this figure began in 1946 – the daily death toll from Covid-19 still exceeds 100.

Long-term concerns

Despite the eye-watering borrowing, tragic deaths and suffering that’s resulted from Covid-19, we have largely been resilient.

Unemployment, at 4.6 percent, is remarkably low. In fact, the crisis many businesses seem to be facing is finding sufficient employees. Which brings us back to Brexit.

Many of those who worked in low wage jobs were EU citizens, and there is undoubtedly a sense that issues caused by Brexit – particularly in terms of supply chains, which all businesses depend on – have been exacerbated by Covid-19.

Indeed, as the International Monetary Fund reported this week, Covid-19 will cause longer-lasting damage to the UK’s economy than any other G7 country and will still be three percent smaller in 2024.

There are numerous business issues to consider, too. For example:

  • Some goods are not available in the abundance that would be expected had the pandemic not occurred.
  • Inflation has started to spike – particularly because of the cost of fuel – and if this continues, spending money will be sapped at a time when businesses need people to reach into their pockets.
  • Indeed, there is a concern that, if Christmas spending is reduced this year, there could be many businesses struggling to stay afloat come the traditionally tricky New Year period.

Support for Covid-19 and Brexit…and beyond

Birmingham City University continues to respond rapidly to the needs of businesses, regarding both of these concerns and more.

The CBS was set up in January 2017 as one of the first research centres devoted to Brexit.

Since then, it has produced numerous reports examining the impact of Brexit upon business and the economy.  

Their annual Beyond Brexit conference is returning on Friday 26 November. Titled ‘Tackling New Disruptions’, it will offer networking opportunities and will see experts discuss – among other concerns – building a resilient Birmingham in the aftermath of Brexit.

Since the start of the pandemic, BCU Advantage has provided various business support measures to provide access to funding, clarity concerning the latest guidelines, and signposts to key sources of information.

They also partnered with leading industry experts to host a series of webinars, offering vital assistance and information to reduce the impact of Covid-19 on businesses.

You may feel that, as a business, it is time to innovate and diversify. If so, BCU Advantage offers knowledge transfer partnerships, where you can improve your business performance, achieve innovative solutions to challenges and develop new technology.

If you are looking for new employees, the The Higher Level Skills Match (HLSM) service can help identify talented workers for your business.

Looking to innovate your business in the aftermath of Brexit and Covid-19? Get in touch to find out how we can help.

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