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Back to Brexit

BACK TO BREXIT: How can we lead on sustainability in a time of change?

A Spanner in the Works of a Massive Opportunity?

By Dr Christos Tsinopoulos

Modern supply chains have been benefiting from technology advances which enable manufacturers to share information quickly. In fact, the recent push for development of Industry 4.0, which encourages seamless connectivity and information sharing between supply chain partners, has been born out of the need to take such internal and external integration to the next level. Our research consistently supports the notion that increased levels of cooperation and information sharing improves an organisation’s performance and its ability to be flexible.

Common legal frameworks and standards have been significant enablers of these. The EU, with its size and power, has been able to harmonise regulations between member states. Even more importantly, due to its economic power, it has also enabled a degree of harmonisation between manufacturers in other countries who want to link up with the supply chains within the EU.

A key argument about Brexit, however, has been to bring such control to the local level. A ‘first’ read of this could mean that regulations and standards for doing business in the UK will be decided locally and thus, over time, they will diverge from those in the EU. This can be a concern, or a spanner in the works, as it would be very likely that such divergence will put UK manufacturers at a disadvantage.

Yet, at the same time, such technologies have also enabled significant flexibility, allowing manufacturers to respond to different types of demand and to deal with different requirements globally.

In fact, even within the EU, harmonisation is not as seamless as one would think. German truck drivers, for instance, have very specific requirements for their trucks. Therefore, and despite the existence of a common framework for automotive suppliers, any manufacturer who wants to supply the German market would need to adapt its products accordingly, regardless of whether they are in the EU or not.

Flexible technologies and innovative approaches to managing the supply chain are therefore likely to remain significant enablers of integration. As the UK is leaving the EU, the incentive to understand such variations and to respond to them could result in a significant capability, which can be directed towards any market, making it a massive global opportunity.

The need for Policy Direction

By Professor Laurence Ferry

After a decade of austerity, local authorities have significant challenges, but undoubtedly now following the Brexit referendum there is a need for a fundamental review of local government. Brexit means local government will face big policy, financial and service impact along with significant political implications, but may not have the capacity and adaptability to deal with such changes after having had to be resilient to cuts over many years. A review could be along the lines of something approaching the Layfield Committee in the 1970s, with local government having a seat at the decision-making table to voice concerns around power, capacity and local freedoms. This could determine what is desirable and feasible as a role for local government in the newly emerging context post-Brexit.

One of the more contentious areas is devolution that has largely stalled with Brexit. The Local Government Association has suggested leaders of local government in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are united for further devolution to local communities across the UK after Brexit. In particular they want ‘subsidiarity’ ensuring power is transferred to the level of government closest to the people; securing powers and responsibilities, setting out what local government should support at the local level so that public services can be designed around local need; and providing greater fiscal autonomy, especially with regard to encouraging economic growth.

The Government has not, as of yet, clearly signalled any intention to change policy direction regarding devolution to local areas, but this has to remain an active area of discussion if we are to have balanced sustainable development across the UK.

Fishy Business

By Professor Kevin Dowd

Wherever one stands on Brexit, it offers the opportunity to fix the dreadful economic and environmental mess produced by the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The CFP has led to the collapse of fishing stocks and even now still forces fishermen to throw large quantities of marketable fish overboard. The damage it does to other parts of the marine ecosystem is legendary. Brexit offers the opportunity to adopt a new UK fisheries policy that would put UK fisheries on a sustainable basis and greatly improve our marine environment. We know this can be done because Iceland has shown us how to do it. The key principles are a long-term perspective and low quotas to give fishing stocks time to recover, sensible rules to transfer those quotas and changes in the rules to discourage senseless waste. Sensibly managed, everyone benefits, fish and fishermen alike. In this area at least, sustainability is easy to achieve: it is just a case of getting the rules right.

This article was first published in IMPACT Magazine in January 2018

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