How can the West Midlands make Brexit work?

on January 27, 2017

What does Brexit actually mean? With the Prime Minister’s famous phrase “Brexit means Brexit”  emblematic of the UK leaving the EU, Birmingham City University launches The Centre for Brexit Studies to clarify and discuss solutions. 

Professors of three West Midlands universities put together data and research  to explain how Brexit will influence economy, society and democracy.

Will UK business and trade in general, and West Midlands in particular, loose or gain?
How will the energy sector be affected?
Will democracy be strengthened or will it be put to test?

Watch the participants talk about some of the difficulties that lay ahead.

Hard Brexit: what the issues are

The academics working with The Centre for Brexit Studies identify cost, expertise and time as the major difficulties on leaving the EU. They discuss these 3 factors as affecting most public sectors. But other issues add to the list, such as environment regulations and creating the legal environment for an unprecedented situation.

Let us go through some of these issues, in the words of the academics:

“It is likely we would leave the EU without any agreement, due to lack of time” (prof. Paul Forrest, photo bellow, Business School, Birmingham City University)


“Custom procedures take time and expertise. Big companies have the expertise to trade with various countries. If you only trade with Germany, you will be affected” (prof. Stefania Paladini, Business School, Birmingham City University)


“Frankly, no city in the EU has the capacity to absorb the financial services market of London. Most probably, if they have to move, it will be to New York or Singapore” (prof. Paul Forrest, Business School, Birmingham City University)

Prof. Haydn Davies, prof. Robert Lee and Neena Gill, MEP, talked
at the Centre for Brexit Studies launch

“The US has constantly blocked any discussion on financial services” (prof. Haydn Davies, School of Law, Birmingham City University)


“Air quality in Birmingham is a real issue, responsible for many premature deaths. Regarding environmental laws, the UK will require to apply internal regulations, because for the last 40 years it has not done much. All the legwork was done the the EU” (prof. Robert Lee, School of Law, Birmingham City University)


“The rate at which we are currently creating electricity infrastructure is very slow” (prof. Haydn Davies, School of Law, Birmingham City University)


“In relation to the environmental law, 80% is there because we were in the European Union. But how much does that 80% reflect what we would have wanted? If you look at a lot of the EU environmental law, actually it had a single purpose: to support free trade. It was to provide a level plain field of competition so that a market without borders could produce economic growth” (prof. Robert Lee, School of Law, Birmingham City University)

How Birmingham could benefit from Brexit

Professor Paul Forrest, representing West Midlands Economic Forum, says the UK needs to make it work:

“Making Brexit a success is not an option, it is a must. We cannot make it a failure.”

As a solution for the local economy, he suggested Birmingham could become the new Singapore. Watch him talk about transforming the NEC and the airport into a free trade zone.

Prof. Forrest also talks about how such a solution would be based on the economic reality of Birmingham and the surrounding area:

  • the West Midlands leads in the UK in terms of export;
  • the region’s main exporting industries are the automotive and the aerospace ones, producing high quality and high precision goods;
  • 42% of these exports go to the EU (mainly Germany, France and the Netherlands), and 58% go to the rest of the world.

He concludes that:

“With the West Midlands having one of the strongest performances in export in the UK, it is crucial that it will be involved in the negotiations”


Freelance journalist, writer, love to explore and meet people. I publish on my personal blog as well at

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