Iain Conn, Centrica Group Chief Executive spoke about Europe’s place in the world and specifically the issues that may arise from Brexit in his speech to the Isny-Round conference in Germany. Iain covered four key messages in his speech.
European growth – why we need to work together:
The problem is stark. In simple terms Europe is falling behind in global competitiveness and our growth is weak. Europe has energy costs which are twice those of the United States and labour costs which are twice those of Asia. This is fundamental. Economic growth in Europe is lower than the US and lower than most Asian countries. We may be the largest economic bloc on many measures, but we will fall behind over time. We need to focus on the effectiveness of our markets, and the efficiency with which we produce things. The UK has been a champion of free deregulated markets and competition. I worry about a Europe without the UK around the table.
The views of Britain and Europe need to be aligned:
At the moment Britain is looking at the question of separating from the EU from a commercial perspective, and Europe is looking at it politically. This runs the risk of “missing each other”. The two have to come together.
We need to look outwards not inwards:
Our internal issues - in the EU, in the UK and in the US - are all causing us to be inwardly focused. The effect of this is pulling us apart. However, all of these problems on the borders of Europe need us all to come together.
It will be a hard AND soft Brexit:
Everyone is demanding to know whether it will be a “hard” or a “soft” Brexit. This misses the point. I believe because of the sheer complexity and number of dimensions if we tried to negotiate everything, by definition in the majority of areas it will be a “soft Brexit”. However, there are a few issues which will be key and likely characterised as “hard Brexit” areas including access to the single market, the price the UK will have to pay for that, “passporting” for financial services, and the terms regarding the free movement of people.