Lead academic Professor John Maloney and Guild President Toby Gladwin introducing the 2017 Brexit Challenge

Lead academic: Professor John Maloney (Economics)

The Business of Brexit


We live in uncertain economic times following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union (EU). The Business of Brexit Challenge explored how businesses can maximise the opportunities and reduce the costs of Britain being due to leave the EU in 2019. Students on the Challenge investigated a number of areas including strategies that businesses should adopt following Brexit, the kind of trade agreements Britain should seek with the rest of the world if we do leave the customs union, the effect Brexit will have on public policy, and the impact the Brexit will have on the higher education sector.

The Challenge was run in collaboration with the Student Guild, with Toby Gladwin (Guild President 2016/17) working with students on the effect that Brexit would have on Higher Education, using Exeter as a case study.

The 2017 Brexit Challenge welcomed some high profile visiting speakers as part of special events hosted before Grand Challenges Week: Chris Huhne (an economist and former cabinet minister) and Eamon Butler (Director of the Adam Smith Institute). During the week itself, students also heard from Linda Middleton-Jones (business manager), Beth Button (European Students’ Union), Andrew Butler (National Farmers Union) and Rob Wainwright (Director of Europol).

Taking inspiration from these talks, the students spent the rest of the week working in interdisciplinary groups analysing the potential effects of Brexit in relation to their chosen topic. As this Challenge ran at a time when the nature of Brexit was still unclear, students also looked into the impact that different versions of Brexit would have. Each group produced a presentation explaining their research as well as a more creative output for displaying their findings. Outputs included posters, reports, a video, website and even a ‘Brexit cow’. Each of the outputs produced are shown below.

On the Friday morning, the students presented their work to the rest of the students on their challenge. Due to the contemporary nature of the topic, students produced innovative and novel insights into what could be done in response to Brexit. On Friday afternoon, they showcased their work at an exhibition in the Forum, which was attended by students from all Challenges, University staff and members of the general public.

The timetable for the 2017 Challenge shows how the week was structured.

Student Outputs

These are the outputs that students on the 2017 Challenge produced.

Enquiry groups

Enquiry groups are the subtopic of the challenge that students focus on for Grand Challenges Week. These are the enquiry groups that ran in 2017. 

Summarise the post Brexit debate on the consequences for firms with reference to exporting goods and services and contribute to the debate with your own research. To what extent do FTSE100 (FTSE250) companies depend on trade with EU and non-EU geographic areas in terms of exports? Have companies shifted their export strategy? How so? Do those movements denote a trend to avoid possible adverse Brexit consequences? Has dependence from exports to EU/ non EU countries worked for firms’ revenues given the sterling devaluation? Lead academic Christina Dargenidou.

Led by Professor John Maloney from the Business School, this enquiry group considers the following:

The economic forecasts of the long-term benefits and costs of Brexit are mainly about its effect on trade. Why are different forecasts so far apart? How many versions of Brexit are actually going to be on offer? Which one should business prefer? Does the answer depend on the kind of business? How should they put pressure on the government to get a better chance of getting their desired version? Issues here would include free immigration from the EU, the degrees of withdrawal from the single market, stay or leave the customs union (and the kind of trade agreements we should seek with the rest of the world if we do leave the customs union), what to do about non-tariff barriers etc.

Leaving the EU will give Britain the chance to amend European laws affecting business, such as equality legislation and working time directives. We will be asking what if any changes should be made now that we have the opportunity. Lead academic Sarah Cooper.

How should the financial sector plan for reduced access to the single market, and how should it aim to keep this access as great as possible? Lead academic Kevin McMeeking.

Students' Guild President Toby Gladwin and Vice President for Activities Tristan Gatward will be leading an investigation on how leaving the EU will affect higher education, using Exeter as a case study. Professor John Maloney will act as the academic lead on this enquiry group.

Using Exeter university as a case study, this enquiry group also asks whether it will be harder for students from the EU to come here? What would be the consequences for the economy and how should the university best deal with it?

Photos from Grand Challenges 2017