North East business leaders gathered at Teesside University for a major conference to discuss post-Brexit opportunities and hear from Business Secretary Greg Clark.
Prosperity North East brought together business owners and professionals from across the region to debate mitigating Brexit challenges and how to make the most of the opportunity of being outside of the EU, specifically in key sectors such as clean energy, bioscience, advanced manufacturing and digital.
Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, was the keynote speaker and he was joined by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, Paul Drechsler CBE, Vice-President of the CBI and Chancellor of Teesside University and Julian Batson, Barclays North East Relationship Director.
The conference, sponsored by Barclays, stressed that the region needs to play to its strengths to succeed after Brexit, a view shared by the Business Secretary, Greg Clark.
He told delegates that clean energy, bioscience, advanced manufacturing and digital are what he sees as the key strengths of the North East and agreed with the discussions at the conference that highlighted the need to maximise on these sectors in markets across the UK and around the world.
Mr Clark also explained that, whatever deal is reached over Brexit, the North East must use its economic and commercial assets to its best advantage.
Organised in partnership between the Tees Valley Combined Authority, Teesside University and Prosperity UK, the conference featured a number of significant and influential speakers from the world of business.
Paul Drechsler CBE discussed the opportunities and challenges for business in the North East Economy, while Square One Law’s EU specialist, Neil Warwick OBE highlighted what companies can be doing now in the lead up to March next year.
The conference then presented regional business leaders with the opportunity to take part in the group discussions. The sessions were led by sector specialists who engaged with attendees to discuss the sort of economy and society they want to build after Britain leaves the European Union and identify the practical steps that need to be taken to achieve their shared vision.
The outcomes of these sessions were then shared with the Secretary of State during a panel discussion led by Professor Jane Turner OBE DL, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Enterprise and Business Engagement) at Teesside University.
An independent organisation established in 2017, Prosperity UK was founded with the support of the Government to bring together business leaders, academics and policy-makers to chart a course for the UK in a post-EU economy.
Brexit is both the biggest opportunity Britain has in a generation, and the most significant challenge facing politicians.
Greg Clark MP said: ‘I’d like to congratulate Prosperity UK for arranging this conference to focus on something absolutely central to every single one of us - the future of this great region which we all want to see thrive.
‘At Chequers, we agreed a set of proposals that would keep business thriving and hiring across the North East. And looking beyond March next year we also need to support those growing businesses who will drive prosperity in the next 10, 20 and 30 years.
‘Through our modern Industrial Strategy, we are helping businesses in the North East and across the country create well paid, skilled jobs all over the country.’
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: ‘Brexit is both the biggest opportunity Britain has in a generation, and the most significant challenge facing politicians.
‘There is grit and a natural optimism in places like Tees Valley when it comes to Britain’s place in the world. We are and always have been an open, outward-looking part of the world, ready and willing to embrace new opportunities. Our industrial roots, current businesses and future plans for the world-class South Tees Development Corporation site mark us out as a manufacturing powerhouse to be reckoned with. So as we take back control of our money, laws, borders and trade policy, I want to ensure we capitalise on these new freedoms to ensure we’re best placed to benefit from all that Brexit brings.
‘I remain committed to making sure that Brexit works in the best interests of the people of the Tees Valley, and I’m grateful to Greg Clark the Business Secretary who’s travelled back home to listen to the views of our innovators, entrepreneurs and job creators today.’
Julian Batson, Barclays North East Relationship Director, said: ‘Barclays has been an integral part of communities across the North of England for generations and we strive to remain a trusted partner of our customers and help them achieve their ambitions. We are delighted to sponsor this conference that provides North East businesses with an opportunity to talk about what support they need for their long term future and to engage Government and regional leaders directly to make this happen.’