Hot 100 Connect: 100 days after Brexit, but still no concrete plan

What has changed for in-house lawyers 100 days after the Brexit vote? As economic pundits dispute whether Theresa May’s Government will opt for a ‘hard Brexit’ or a soft one, companies (and the lawyers that guide them) are in limbo.

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The plummeting value of the pound – which dropped to historically low levels immediately after the Brexit vote and is expected to tumble further – combined with uncertainty over the single market, has created a perfect economic storm.

For businesses this means a widening gap between international and national brands. The FTSE 100, which conduct the majority of their business outside of the UK but are headquartered here, have seen their international assets increase in value, while businesses in the FTSE 250 and beyond have suffered.

So what’s the plan? Rather than waiting around to find out what deal the UK will agree to, several companies are shopping around to boost their investments in Europe. Rather than the doom-mongering supposition that businesses would up-sticks and move to Frankfurt (which many still will not rule out), it is prudent to assume that those already with assets in the rest of the continent will look to downsize in the UK and upgrade elsewhere.

In the second of The Lawyer’s Hot 100 Connect events in-house lawyers discussed the uncertainty surrounding these negotiations, potential company moves and talent retention. Attendees included Dixons Carphone general counsel Nigel Patterson, Lucozade Ribena Suntory general counsel Mollie Stoker, JustEat general counsel Jeff Eneberi and Pearson deputy general counsel Graeme Baldwin.

The session, titled ‘Brexit, 100 days (or so) later: A retrospective look at the past 100 days and an informed look into the future’, saw lawyers gather for an afternoon of panel discussions, issue-specific presentations and networking in the City, to cut through the noise and address the Brexit-based fears of leading general counsel.

Lewis Silkin partner Andrew Osborne, Reed Smith partner Georgia Quenby and Thomson Reuters global head of government affairs Nick Collier were among the speakers at the event.

“It’s the most complex series of negotiations that this country has ever done,” Collier told the audience. “I think we’ll be kicked out of the EU in the two years after triggering Article 50 and have nothing in place, and will have to put in temporary measures.”

The stakes are high because of the big part of the economy that the UK services industry represents, mainly fuelled by foreign workers.

“French and German leaders want to take the opportunity to wrest the City from the City,” Osborne said. “For them to do that, they need an agreement.”

Hot 100 Connect

The Hot 100 Connect, launched this year by The Lawyer, gives Hot 100 lawyers from 2016 and the previous two years’ alumni a platform to reconnect with their peers through a series of exclusive events.

These invitation-only networking and learning events bring together 20 to 30 Hot 100 lawyers in three professional peer groups: in-house, the bar and private practice corporate dealmakers.