Recent Forum: Killik & Co., 30th May
Killik & Co. kindly hosted our meeting on 30 May 2019, at their magnificent Grade II* listed offices in Mayfair. These were once the home of American born financier and philanthropist Sir Edgar Speyer, who apart from raising finance for the early London Underground, and contributing to Scott’s Antarctic expeditions, also rescued the Proms from bankruptcy, funding them from his own pocket for 12 years.
There would likely be no Proms, had it not been for Speyer and it was a privilege to meet in the sumptuous Music Room where he had hosted such artistic contemporaries as Debussy and Strauss. Music and the arts were not on the agenda though, and our eminent guests were invited to speak to social, cultural and economic issues in these challenging times.
The first was Brad Blitz, Professor of International Politics, Middlesex University London, and Director of the British Academy’s programme on Tackling Slavery, Human Trafficking and Child Labour in Modern Business.
Modern slavery exists in cases of forced labour, forced marriage, and human trafficking, where a person is exploited and cannot refuse to leave due to threats, violence, coercion, deception, manipulation, and/ or the abuse of power. But didn’t slavery end with the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833? Arguably not. The seeds of modern slavery were probably sown when indentured labour was introduced to replenish the workforces of plantation owners, depleted by the release of slaves. Professor Blitz reminded us that modern slavery has only risen up the political agenda over the past 20 years even though it is estimated that over 40 million people worldwide are victims. These comprise (approximately):
|Private sector (domestic work, construction and manufacturing)||16 Million|
|State authorities (e.g cotton sector of Uzbekistan, prison inmate labour)||4 Million|
|Commercial sexual exploitation||5 Million|
|Forced marriage||15 Million|
The UK’s Modern Slavery Act of 2015 was the first of its kind in Europe, and one of the first in the world to specifically address slavery and trafficking in the 21st century. It requires larger suppliers of goods or services which carry on their business or a part thereof in the UK to publish a statement setting out the steps that they have taken to eradicate slavery and human trafficking in their own business and supply chains. To date a minority of businesses is compliant and in the absence of meaningful sanctions there appears to be little disincentive to non-compliance.
So where next? A campaign for more expensive T shirts and trainers, is perhaps not one that all consumers will be keen to take forward. But while many do demand higher ethical standards in the production of goods and services it will be governments, supported by the media, and perhaps investors, who keep up the pressure to end the human rights abuses associated with Modern Slavery.
Our next speaker wasStuart Kaye,a founding Director of Adams Kaye, a London law firm specialising in Property Law and Private Clients. His business is only a year old, and his journey has taken him from a 17 year old school dropout through working in theatre to becoming a lawyer at firms such as Clifford Chance and DKLM Solicitors.
Stuart talked to the challenge of owning a business and adapting his role from manager to employer. The buck now stops with him, and as the owner, it falls to him to resolve client issues with calmness and control.
In response to the particular risks and opportunities for his business, Stuart noted that while winning business is fundamental, it is as important to recognise when to turn business away. In the current environment the firm has to be particularly vigilant for money laundering and mortgage and identity fraud.
Stuart believes that business success will be founded on his people. Finding those who respect and trust one another, and of course ….. those with whom he gets on, is fundamental to the challenge!
In these turbulent times no meeting would be complete without mention of the “B” word. Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington, spoke next. In June 2017, he was appointed his party’s Spokesman for Exiting the European Union and International Trade and Shadow First Secretary of State.
Tom was unsurprisingly unable to cite any pro’s of Brexit. “No one” he said “is talking about a Brexit dividend. It is only about sovereignty” (did a pro slip in there?) “not about the economy……. there is no certainty as to where the process will go from here” and reminded us that:
- Parliament has already rejected the EU/May Withdrawal deal
- the EU has been clear that it will not renegotiate the deal,
- The legal default position is that, in the absence of an agreement with the EUor a further extension, the UK will leave the EU without a deal on 31 October
- Parliament has already voted against a “No Deal” Brexit.
He believes that:
- It is unlikely that a new Conservative leader will call a general election, to resolve the issue, given the party’s showing in the polls.
- The EU is unlikely to grant a further extension unless there is a credible new proposal on the table or a process (such as a further referendum, for example) is underway.
- The call for a further referendum is no longer a minority sport. Members of all parties are joining the call, given that there is no certainty as to where to go from here.
- While the Conservatives are bound up in a leadership contest, and may elect a leader in favour of a “No Deal” Brexit, MP’s across all parties will be working with the Speaker to block this.
He indicated that the EU/May deal could yet get support of minority parties in Parliament but his would be conditional upon any deal being put to a further referendum, which chose only between the EU/May deal or Remain. “No deal” could not be on the ballot paper. He believes that there is still time to achieve this before the 31 October deadline (ten weeks to phrase the question, and ten weeks to campaign), and that the EU would likely grant a further extension if the process of a further referendum was underway.
Tom noted that he would like to see those voters, who were disenfranchised at the 2016 referendum, empowered to vote at a further referendum. These would include
- UK citizens living in the EU
- EU citizens living in the UK
- 16/17 year old’s
While the chances of Parliament agreeing to a further referendum seem remote, the longer the Brexit process continues, the fewer people aged 65 or older (64% of whom who voted Leave in the 2016 referendum) will be left next time around. Rule out a “No deal” option in any further referendum, add a sprinkling of the voters above, and seduce the Leave voters of “the North” with a Remain dividend of appropriate investment (which the EU and UK governments have, for decades, failed to deliver) and the result of a further referendum could be Remain.
But one is left thinking whether that would really settle the issue once and for all? Our MP’s, and the views of the people are polarised. Shouldn’t our politicians take a lesson from negotiators in businesses up and down the country, who do deals or die, and seek compromise to resolve the issue and unify the country?