The Business of Brexit

The Challenge had two speakers before the week itself to lay some foundations for the students and to also provide some inspiration on what sort of challenges will have to be overcome. Chris Huhne – an economist and former cabinet minister – spoke about how businesses can plan for Brexit. Eamon Butler, Director of the Adam Smith Institute, asked what the 18th century economist would have said about Brexit, looking at the issues in a different lens to how it had been covered in the media thus far. After sparking student interest, it was time for the week itself to begin!

On the Monday, the students were already split into their enquiry groups, having chosen them in advance. All students were then invited to an introductory lecture where Professor John Maloney provided an overview of the week and spoke about the exciting opportunities there were throughout the week. Following this talk, students then grouped in their base rooms, and took part in fun icebreaker sessions as an effort to introduce everyone to one another. The academic lead for the enquiry group then outlined the week, and students brainstormed how they would attempt to solve their Challenge. One of the students spoke positively about their group, and how proud they were of the work created in the week: “During the Grand Challenges week, I worked within a team of 12 and improved my own teamwork skills and communication. I think I had a very unique team in which everyone was dynamic, creative and friendly… I felt extremely delighted during this week and I was proud of our group.”

The second day was filled with some exciting guest speakers to inspire potential ideas, but also allowed for expert opinion on groups’ early intentions. This was the day when students fine-tuned their question, and then started to look at what the best potential outputs they could make to support their answer were. One of the speakers went above and beyond to help the students, as showcased by a student when talking about their project: “The gentleman from the NFU was very helpful for our group and was very kind to come and speak to our group individually after. This inspired the work that we did for the rest of the week and why I believe we had such a great success and results throughout the week.”

On Wednesday, the work was pulled together and students flexed their creative muscles. Several groups made use of the outlets provided - FabLab proved to be very popular. Here students made t-shirts to act as branding, merchandise to support their work, and one group even made a ‘Brexit cow’ which acted as the centre-piece for their work at the Showcase. Up until Thursday evening, the emphasis was to compile and finish the output(s) and to prepare the presentation to demonstrate why that specific output was the best means of answering the initial issue.

One student said one of the features that made the week such a success was “the support from some of the academic staff and encouragement to come up with ideas beyond our comfort zone. Also, being able to make t-shirts and buy the domain for our website were little things that tied our group together and made our ideas come to life.”

On the Friday morning, students presented their work to the whole Challenge group. After this, the week concluded with the Showcase, where the students networked with all Challenges, got an idea as to what other groups did, and celebrated a successful week!

Some of the outputs from the Brexit group were websites, leaflets, the ‘Brexit cow’, analysis of the current situation and reports. Students could be as creative as they wished, providing it was achievable within the timeframe.

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?

Flickr gallery from Brexit 2017