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18 November, 2018 - 20:55 By Kate Sweeney

Cambridge tops post-Brexit economic league table

Cambridge is expected to have the fastest-growing city economy in the UK in the three months following the scheduled date for leaving the EU, says a new report.

The UK Powerhouse report by law firm Irwin Mitchell and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), says Cambridge will see year-on-year growth in the 12 months to Q2 2019 of two per cent.

Milton Keynes will be third fastest (1.9 per cent), Ipswich and Peterborough fifth and sixth respectively (each 1.6 per cent on differing GVA figures) – handing the East of England four of the top 10 places in the post-Brexit economic charts. Reading is second and Oxford fourth.

Pointing to the growth in economic hotspots, the report says many locations in the South and East of England have increasing amounts of highly skilled jobs in the technology and knowledge-based sectors. 

It adds that work of this nature contributes much-needed research and innovation which drives productivity in competition with foreign goods.

These locations are also set to benefit from significant transport investment such as the East-West rail link. This connection will make it far easier for labour across the region to travel with ease for employment and business reasons - particularly important when free movement of labour from the EU is curtailed.

It adds that because of the diversity in services offered across the South and East regions, there are many examples that give reasons for optimism in its ability to adapt and respond to the changing nature of trade come March 2019. 

Though an undisputed difficult time could arise in the short-term, UK Powerhouse says that the medium to long-term prospects are not all negative.

Victoria Brackett, CEO of Business Legal Services at Irwin Mitchell, said: “The overall impacts of Brexit in the long term prove difficult to measure without clear guidelines and a deal in place.

“The UK will ultimately be responsible for managing and securing its own trade deals and though there are clear opportunities, these will have to be balanced alongside the short term risks which will be realised shortly after the UK’s official departure.

“One thing that the last decade has taught us is that despite the hugely disruptive force of the financial crisis, the UK economy has been incredibly resilient. It is vital that we tackle the challenges head on and take advantage of the new opportunities that emerge.

“The UK is a global powerhouse and we need to stay positive and work together to ensure this remains to be the case.”

Cebr’s forecasts are based on the assumption that the UK and the EU are able to form a compromise and sign a partial free trade agreement (FTA) covering at least the most important goods traded. 

It is unlikely that such an FTA can be agreed on in time, before the UK needs to leave the EU in 2019. It therefore assumes that a transitional arrangement will be put in place that allows a continuation of the current relationship without any major disruptions until an FTA is agreed on around 2021. 

On the immigration policy, the research relies on the lower immigration population estimates assuming that a visa system will be implemented for EU nationals, but that the requirements (e.g. the minimum salary, the NHS surcharge payment, the application fees etc.) would be more relaxed than they currently are for non-EU nationals requiring a visa.

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Victoria Brackett of Irwin Mitchell

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