PCMA’s Education Conference Features Global Execs Talking U.K. Vote to Leave EU

June 27, 2016

At the 2016 Professional Convention Management Association’s Education Conference in St. Louis. Mo., the planning committee did some quick thinking after the U.K. voted to leave the European Union last Thursday.

The committee included on the event’s schedule a live-streaming and in-person session with representatives from three global companies to talk about the possible impact of the U.K. vote on the meetings industry.

Moderated by PCMA’s Michelle Crowley, the three panelists were Oscar Cerezales, COO - APAC, MCI Group, Ben Hainsworth, executive director, K.I.T. Group GmbH and Simon Hughes, managing partner, MCHA Ltd. and Vice chair of the Business Visits and Events Partnership (UK).

Crowley started out by giving some background on the referendum and reminded the audience that the U.K. leaving the E.U. not only was not a done deal because the British Parliament still needed to vote, but also the process could take a long time for the break to actually occur.

Upon waking up last Friday and hearing the results of the referendum vote, Hughes said the general consensus was “absolute shock”, adding “It’s an extremely surreal feeling.”

Hainsworth concurred, and said that he had basically grown up with the European Union being an integral part of his life and career. “I never thought this could have happened,” he added.

All of the panelists said that beyond the initial shock waves, including the swift devaluation of the British pound to a more than 30-year low and steep declines in stock markets worldwide, it was too early to tell what some of the long-term ramifications might be.

“Immediately, we don’t know what’s going to happen,” Cerezales said. He added that his company developed two task forces a few months ago.

One task force was in the eventuality of a ‘stay’ vote, the other for ‘leave’, and some things to consider were whether there would be more or less British delegates at meetings, that the lower pound would make the U.K. a desired place travel and what would be the impact of travel in and out of the country?

Hainsworth said outside of the UK and EU, the rest of the world should not have a “huge impact” having events in either area.

He added, though, that between the UK and EU there would be a lot of possible implications, including taxes and “the free movement of people, goods and services.”

Hughes said another issue to consider is that for the past 30-40 years, the U.K. has not had to do any of its own trade negotiations. They all were done by the E.U.

“We don’t have experienced people in trade negotiations,” he added.

As far as what’s to come in the future, all of the panelists were in a “wait-and-see mode”.

“It’s affecting all of us,” Crowley said. “Although we don’t quite know how or why.”

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