Devolved power case ‘even stronger’ post-Brexit

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Brexit makes the case for regional devolution “even stronger”, one of the region’s top business leaders has claimed, with company bosses in Yorkshire urged to remain upbeat and to seize opportunities that emerge from the fallout.

Ian Morrison, Yorkshire and North East regional leader at professional services firm PwC, said a settlement for devolution in Yorkshire would unlock the door to much-needed improvements in transport and skills.

He added that digital skills would be integral to the growth prospects of the majority of Yorkshire firms.

Mr Morrison said: “While sometimes unsettling, we should appreciate that change is going to happen whether we like it or not, whether we participate or not. There is no doubt that Brexit brings uncertainty and will continue to do so for many years ahead.  The UK has weathered the initial fallout well but there is a long way to go. 

“What businesses across our region should avoid is adopting ‘a wait and see’ attitude. Business needs to carry on and instead adopt a more ‘can do’ spirit, which to some extent we have seen in certain sectors in the sixth months following our decision to leave the EU.

“It is also likely that we will start to see the impact of falling exchange rates as hedging positions begin to unwind, with the position of the weaker pound reflected on imports where we expect to see increase costs hit businesses which in turn will ultimately impact consumer confidence. One thing that Brexit does bring is an even stronger case for devolution and for stronger regions.

“There is now no better time for more ‘City Region’ deals to be done across Yorkshire which will give more power to local decision makers to enhance local investment needs around infrastructure, transport and the development of much needed skills for our region.

“Business needs to remain optimistic and seize the opportunities that will be created, many of which will involve the digital agenda and the wider use of new technology that will lead to new ways of working. Digital skills capability will be an integral component to the future success of many businesses.”

The claim surrounding digital skills was echoed by banking giant Barclays’ annual SME Hopes and Fears Index, which showed the availability of better technology is considered to be the most important contributor for business growth in 2017.

Meanwhile wealth management firm Investec said that the 35-year bond bull market could be coming to an end. Responding to the company’s Vision 2017 report, John Wyn-Evans, head of investment strategy with Investec, said that as governments propose fiscal stimulus that should increase the supply of bonds, investments linked to strong secular themes including financial technology, cyber security, healthcare, emerging market consumers, robotics and gene editing will continue to do well.

He added that the scope of activities that are open to the application of labour-saving techniques is “essentially limitless”.

Computing power is doubling every 18 months to two years and for the first time computers are starting to think for themselves. Large numbers of clerical and professional tasks that were the preserve of the educated are under threat as a result, the report said.

Mr Wyn-Evans said: “Although 2016 was one of the more uncertain periods for investors, it is clear that profound technological and social innovations are continuing to generate exciting investment opportunities across the world.

Vision 2017 highlights some of these key trends.”

Vision 2017 also showed that sharing economy transactions have reached a value of £7.4bn a year – by 2025 this is expected to have grown to £140bn.