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Brexit could be a boon for the regions and SMEs

Dr Laurence Ferry, Associate Professor in Accounting at the School, issued a comment and says Brexit could be a boon for the regions and SMEs, offering an opportunity to rebalance the economy away from London and financial services – but we need more local accountability and revenue raising powers.

“If there is a hard Brexit and we are no longer part of a protected EU market, there is an opportunity to rebalance the economy away from London and financial services in more radical ways under a devolution agenda and this could provide a boost to the English regions in particular.

 “SMEs were rarely helped by Brussels, but form a significant part of our economy. Theresa May’s new Industrial Strategy for the UK must address how best to support SMEs, how to facilitate their growth beyond SME status and how to best assist them in exporting to the world.

 “Heseltine’s 2012 report ‘no stone unturned’ had already convinced government of the necessity to drive growth in the regions, but Brexit provides an external and unexpected shock that can fire a serious change.

 “Yet an industrial strategy cannot be merely economic. We need a social side that will fix the broken public services that are at the heart of much discontentment. In particular poor (or no) housing is the scourge of the 2010s in the way employment was in the 1980s. And given recent events, we shall see whether the ‘environment’ side continues to play a part beyond rhetoric.”

 “But how will public services support the industrial strategy across the diverse regions of the UK? The government itself will inevitably grow as roles currently carried out in the EU will now need to be undertaken here in the UK, and local government will become more intertwined in supporting economic growth. New regional institutions and forms of accountability and scrutiny will be necessary, and universities could earn their impact credentials by becoming more proactive in this civic duty. It is essential with more devolution and the reality of privatisation of services which has already happened that we need more local accountability to safeguard people’s rights.” 

Dr Laurence Ferry, an expert in local governance and democracy, is available for media comment. See below for Laurence's previous commentary: