More than 3,000 people passed through the gates of the Kent Vision Live event on 10 May. Of those questioned, about 12 per cent were there to gauge a general feeling on the state of business in the county, a further 21 per cent were there principally to network.
Sample quotes from visitors included: “Both Robert Peston and James Sproule were excellent - very knowledgeable and good presenters.”
“Helen from Mountain Motorbikes was an extremely good speaker and clearly a very motivated lady in the face of great adversity.”
“Fantastic way to reach into the heart of your surroundings and learn who is around and trying to achieve the same goals as you.”
“The event was great for networking and sourcing potential new suppliers. The workshops I attended throughout the day were all brilliant.”
Speaking to a capacity crowd, ITV politics show presenter Robert Peston gave his view of the state of the nation, opening his talk with the phrase: “We are living in the most uncertain times I can recall, in all the time I have been reporting.”
He went on to analyse why there was such uncertainty, giving three main reasons: The recovery from the 2008 crash proved to be weaker than expected and to have taken longer than any other and wages have grown at a slower rate than expected. Peston also gave his view of the Referendum and why people voted as they did: “To some this was simply anti-Europe, to others it was ‘we want you to listen to us’.” He said the Brexit challenge was the biggest to face any Prime Minister since the Second World War and he warned the “divorce” bill would hit the economy hard – he estimated it would end up at between 40 and 60 million euros. “Transition is everything”, he added.
What would “no deal” mean? Peston asked, answering himself with the dark scenario of chaos at the UK borders, lower growth of the economy and of living standards. He said it was interesting that in the early days, weeks and months after the Brexit vote, the economy showed a barely noticeable change. “The shoppers kept shopping”, he said. BUT inflation has since risen, wages have not and the shopping trend is now slowing down.
“The UK is dependent on overseas economies. The EU will remain an unstable area all the while the Germans and the French have issues over the euro,” he warned.
Other topics covered in Peston’s prime time talk included the speedy rise of tech development in the UK, which he compared with the impact of the early industrial revolution in the 19th century. The economy of the country took between 30 and 40 years to recover from that, so it was sensible to believe there were no quick fixes today, he said.
Peston also pondered on the rise of “revolution” in the world, highlighting the “occupy” movement in the UK and the protests in Greece. These illustrated people’s restlessness and their wish for change, he said. A worrying factor was the rise of extreme right-wing groups, which reflected a scale of discontent among the general public.
Answering a question from the audience over whether the threat that City financial institutions would leave London was a real one, Peston answered: “It is highly unlikely whole companies will relocate, but some will move staff to other parts of the EU, or New York. We will see less growth in the City, but it will retain its image as a highly productive centre.
“The challenge is about giving people hope. This country has areas where there are high hopes and areas of hopelessness.”