Brexit, the economy, skills shortage and the impact of technology on supply chains were amongst the themes discussed (24 January) at an Institute of Export event, hosted in our Bristol office.

The event brought together the members of the Institute of Export & International Trade in the South West to discuss the key challenges facing businesses in the region when it comes to exporting their goods and services as well as the opportunities arising as the country moves towards the fundamental change that Brexit will bring.

Also on the agenda was HMRC's investigation of solutions to border clearance, the reading of the new Trade Bill currently at Committee stage and the use of Free Port Zones, supported by block chain technology, which have the potential to offer significant advantages in terms of tariff rates and reduce risk of delays affecting imports and exports post Brexit.  

Malcolm Dowden, Legal Director at Womble Bond Dickinson, said: "With the possibility of a "hard" or "no deal" Brexit, exporters will need to adapt to a new operating environment. As the negotiations with the EU are underway the government is making contingency plans, especially to tackle concerns over the movement of goods entering or leaving the UK and reassure the 130,000 businesses trading with Europe. 

"Exporters eagerly await the outcomes of the Trade Bill, the possibility of "physical" or even "virtual" Free Zones, and the impact that innovation and highly streamlined technology-based procedures could have on maintaining frictionless borders. Last night's discussion was a good opportunity to discuss the key areas of concerns for exporters and explore the many opportunities available to us."