Former UK Ambassador to the EU, Sir Ivan Rogers, visited the Newcastle Quayside headquarters of leading northern law firm Ward Hadaway this week, to discuss his thoughts on Brexit in front of an audience of the region’s leading business people.

The visit was hosted by Colin Hewitt, partner and head of the commercial team at Ward Hadaway and organised and chaired by Richard Swart, Honorary Vice President, North East England Chamber of Commerce.

Sir Ivan was touring the region, sharing his views on a No Deal Brexit versus a Remain situation, and discussing his thoughts on the prevailing circumstances. He served as a leading government advisor under a succession of Cabinets, until resigning his post as UK Ambassador to the EU in 2016. His experience gives him a unique insight into the realities of the Brexit crisis.

Welcoming Sir Ivan, chairperson Richard Swart, said; “Sir Ivan is one of the country’s leading experts on the subject of Brexit having worked with colleagues in Westminster, the EU and internationally for over three decades, serving successive Prime Ministers. He’s here to give his thoughts and try and help separate fact from fiction so that we can all make informed choices when it comes to our businesses.”

Sir Ivan told the assembled guests; “If I had to bet right now, I’d say we were heading for a no deal situation. Whilst no deal is bad for the EU, it is much worse for the UK. I do think that the EU would rather avoid a no deal situation with the British if they possibly can, but I feel the two sides are currently poles apart in terms of finding common ground. The next few weeks are crucial.

“Post-Brexit I think we’ll leave the Single Market and the Customs Union. What I don’t think is a good idea is to do that in a disruptive and disorderly way, without any free trade agreements in place. In economic terms, that is insanity.

“The reality is a trade deal with the EU is not something that could ever be negotiated quickly, we cannot do that at speed. EU policy is embedded in every government department in Whitehall. The government would need to unravel nearly 45 years of history and that is not something that is easily done, it takes time. Article 50 is only designed to deal with the withdrawal from the EU, and not what happens afterwards. Everything is still to be negotiated, even if we leave on 31 October.”

Following the visit Colin Hewitt, commented; “It was great to have Sir Ivan here, and to see so many business leaders come along to engage in the discussion and hear his views. Working with our partners in the business community, Ward Hadaway likes to provide as much insight as possible on issues that affect our world, so that we can help our region make informed decisions.”

“What Sir Ivan had to say is certainly thought provoking. We know that business thrives on certainty and for many years now, we haven’t had that. There’s a risk that the North East could be badly hit if we leave the EU without any form of deal because we’re a region of manufacturers, that exports a lot of goods and engage in a large amount of international trade. That said, I don’t think there is a region in this country who wouldn’t be hit in some way or other by Brexit.”

Sir Ivan also visited Sunderland, Durham and Teesside as part of his trip.