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This week, the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI) held its annual dinner at the Landmark hotel: a night of fun, excellent food and wine and the opportunity to meet with leading figures from the automotive industry. Andrew Neil, current affairs and political journalist, was the guest speaker for the night, while the Polka Dots provided the after dinner music-entertainment with an exciting modern twist on the classics from the ‘40s and ‘50s.
Andrew Neil delivered an extremely thought-provoking speech. He discussed topical issues such as Brexit, the American elections, but also what the UK could do to address skill shortages and other possible challenges.
With the regard to the EU referendum, Andrew Neil pointed out that the biggest challenge will be to “get the attention of the EU”. He explained how the current political situation across Europe was likely to further delay any technical negotiations. With the triggering of Article 50 due in March, followed by the summer period, and the German elections taking place between the end of August and October 2017, it is probable that nothing will be officially decided until this time next year, he said.
In addition to the German elections, Andrew Neil described how immigration issues, as well as the membership of other countries, will be “worrying the EU”. Countries across Europe including Greece, Hungary, Finland, Sweden, but also Portugal, Spain and Italy will be drawing the attention of the EU in the short term, possibly causing a further slowdown in negotiations.
Neil also gave an extremely interesting insight into one of the most topical issues of the moment, the American Presidential elections. He stated how Hillary Clinton will become the next US President and that Donald Trump’s chances of winning have recently nosedived, as he should be winning in every big state which now seems highly improbable.
Finally, he analysed current challenges for the UK and suggested that the focus should be on these rather than arguing over the referendum result. He pointed out how important consumer spending is needed to “keep the economy moving”, particularly now, with the country likely to experience increasing inflation. He highlighted the importance of “making our people employable” ensuring that they have the right skill set in a period where skill shortages can be a challenge. Neil also stated that the UK needs to invest in road and infrastructure and it is vital that the government pushes these investments as the private sector needs to take a break. He added that in order to “rebalance the country”, it is vital that the government invests not only in London’s Gatwick and Heathrow, but also in the airports of Manchester and Birmingham, as well as in the transport infrastructures in South Yorkshire and Lancashire.