April 12th, 2017 / Insight posted in Articles

Brexit, Trump & Trade debate

As part of a series of events on topical issues, Kingston Smith held a very well-attended, lively debate on ‘Trump, the UK and International Trade’. While President Trump was, naturally, a focus of much discussion, there were also some interesting points raised around the UK’s post-Brexit trade relationships.

The debate was chaired by former Kingston Smith Senior Partner, Sir Michael Snyder. He was joined by a distinguished panel of guests: Vernon Hill, Chairman and Founder of Metro Bank, British Conservative Party politician, Professor Mark Hoban, and Richard Kopelman, CEO and Managing Partner of Aprio LLP. The overarching theme of the debate was, “Although US-UK relations have always been on very good terms, with the result of Brexit and trade deals being dismantled and rebuilt, should UK SMEs be prepared for uncertainty?”

Mark Hoban pointed out that the UK and US relationship is one of the most longstanding relationships there is and it’s particularly important now, with Brexit on the horizon. The UK wants to do a trade deal with the US when we leave the EU and the best way to do that is to forge close links with the President. But he questioned whether Trump can reconcile what he said on the stump to what happens in practice and then be re-elected in four years’ time. It was agreed that Trump and his administration hadn’t got down to the details yet and that these ideas are currently being worked through at a top level; the end result may be quite different to Trump’s original aspirations.

The UK cannot sign a trade deal for up to two years from when Article 50 was triggered, halfway through Trump’s term – the panel was asked to consider whether forging a relationship with Trump might leave the UK high and dry if he is ousted after just one term. Mark Hoban stressed that Liam Fox and his Department must have these discussions over the next two years so that trade agreements are ready to sign as soon as the UK exits the EU. Vernon Hill was emphatic that the two countries will always be very close and a bad trade deal with the US should be last on any list of worries.

The panel discussed whether UK suppliers stood a chance against Trump’s policy to ‘buy US’. Richard Kopelman believes it will be challenging for all importers into the US, but that there are opportunities for UK businesses that are prepared to invest in US manufacturing companies. He also questioned whether the US may create a glut of manufactured product and noted that there will need to be a market for it – which means a good trade deal with Europe, and also in Asia where US-manufactured goods are popular and viewed as high-end.

With an interesting angle on the subject, Vernon Hill said that the US admits to having a 300 year supply of oil and gas, due to the potential of fracking, and posited that, by the time Trump leaves office, there will be a 900 year supply as he won’t have Obama’s qualms about drilling in the Atlantic, the Arctic or on government-owned land. In his opinion, this could have a much bigger impact on the world economy than any trade deals.

The debate prompted insightful questions from the audience and generated plenty of food for thought. There is no doubt that the combination of Brexit and Trump’s presidency will bring interesting times, which we’ll continue to analyse on our Brexit Hub and at forthcoming events.

You can watch the debate in its entirety by clicking here.