BREXIT. The word no-one really wants to use as I write this. ‘A shambles, wherever you stand’ in the words of a couple of prominent Swedish businesses and very importantly in this region a disaster if the UK was to crash out of Europe without a deal. The economic consequences of a ‘no deal Brexit’ in the North East would be profound, widespread and lasting. The job of business is to do business. We need to move beyond the distractions and obsessions of Brexit and begin healing the divisions that have separated communities and left investors questioning the UK in general and the North East in particular as a business destination.
Against this backdrop, Anglo-Swedish business friendships really count. Over the last ten years relationships have been nurtured between the North East and (particularly) Region Västra Götaland’s business and cultural communities. The Brexit turmoil has given added impetus and urgency to plans for the establishment of a mutually beneficial trading corridor across the North Sea together with a healing investment in gardens and tourism. Plans are now taking shape at pace for a trade and investment partnership centred on PROTO, the regional centre for immersive technologies in Newcastle/Gateshead and a West Sweden Garden to mirror the English Garden, which is now a permanent fixture at Jonsered Manor in Gothenburg.
Sankta Lucia brings light into the darkness at Christmas. The North East has been welcoming a Swedish Choir to sing in our schools, businesses and Hexham Abbey for the past two years. This year we also asked the choir, sponsored by Region Västra Götaland, to launch our plans for a Swedish Garden to celebrate Anglo-Swedish community and business friendship in the Brexit darkness. And it did just that. As one Swedish resident has just commented: ‘Sankta Lucia was the highlight of 2018, I’m so grateful you brought it to us’. People do business with people and whatever happens ultimately with Brexit the people of the North East want to continue their friendship with Sweden and North East businesses want to continue working with their Swedish peers.
WORDS: CAROLINE THEOBALD
The Northeastern Chapter of the SCC is located in Newcastle and opened in 2010. The Chapter is one of four alongside the Midlands, Northern and Humber Chapters. Caroline Theobald, CBE, Managing Director at Bridge Club Ltd was appointed the Chapter’s Chairwoman in 2010.
This article was originally published in the February 2019 issue of our Member magazine, The LINK. Read the full magazine here.