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And so to Brexit

13 March, 2017

Author: Warren Town, Director of Industrial Strategy

Triumph motorbikes

In my ‘other life’ I ride, drive and restore classic cars and motorbikes.

As well as restoration, I also contribute to and attend events across the UK and abroad as a punter or an exhibitor.

I can be at Goodwood one weekend and Brooklands the next; that is when I am not rummaging around at an auto or bike jumble along with other 50-years-plus bearded old folks. Ort I am in the garage tinkering with the latest project, or prepping a machine for another event.

What has this to do with Brexit you may ask? Well, quite a lot, in fact.

The world of classic vehicles is not parochial, nor is it home grown; it is European and, increasingly, a global market.

Take the two events that I attended last weekend (11/12 March). The Kempton Park bike jumble was not simply a collection of junk on sale at overinflated prices, although there was the odd trader with an overinflated idea of his collection of rusty bits, it was a collection of traders from across Europe who had good quality items to sell. Some refurbished and others reengineered.

It is a bit odd buying goods for a British brand, in this case Triumph, from the French or the Dutch, but such was the attraction of this brand that many machines were exported to Europe because the Europeans could not get enough of the latest Bonneville or the Speed Twin. Their home grown machines were good but they could not match the speed or the engineering of this British based company.

Move on to the 12th and the Austin/Morris day at Brooklands and you see the same enthusiasm and the same degree of respect with exhibitors from France cheek-by-jowl with UK entrants. And if you think that driving an Austin 12 or 7 made in the 1930s from France to England is a doddle, think again. Especially in the pouring rain.

If you attend events in France like the Classic Le Mans, or the Course de Remparts at Angouleme, the numbers of Brits abroad who have driven to these events can easily outnumber the locals because these are events that transcend national borders and barriers and small minded ideology.

In the next few days, even tomorrow, the government will trigger Article 50 and so the bunfight will begin. Once that trigger is pulled, then the clock starts ticking and only if the 27 states agree will the clock be reset or amended.

What this will mean for cross European trade and the future prosperity of the UK is anyone’s guess and, truth be told, no-one really knows.

What is clear is that with the degree of infighting within all the political parties and the lack of credible and consistent opposition, reaching a consensus and delivering a good deal for the UK could be more challenging than anyone has envisaged to date.

A second referendum for Scottish independence will also be thrown into the mix and, if successful, we could see a mirror image of Northern Ireland/ Republic of Ireland between Scotland and England.

There is a lot to play for and a lot at stake if it goes wrong. Let’s hope that like the classic vehicle fraternity we can work towards a manageable solution and not tear each other apart.

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