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International Focus: Brexit Uncertainty Surrounds UK Exhibitions & Events Industry

by Cynthya Porter

Two years after the historic vote to leave the European Union, the exhibitions and events industry in Great Britain is still holding its breath to see how the move may impact future tradeshows. Efforts at reaching a departure agreement with the EU have so far failed, and with an October deadline approaching, it is looking more likely that the United Kingdom will leave with no transition agreement in place.

For exhibitions and events, this casts questions on how tariffs will be applied to goods imported by EU exhibitors for shows, what sort of Visa documentation those exhibitors will need to visit the UK, and whether the labor industry serving tradeshows will remain stable if the landscape of immigrants in the country is significantly altered.

According to an article in Supply Chain Times, some 60 percent of the membership of the Business Visits & Events Partnership—an association serving the European events industry—believe the UK may attract fewer international events post-Brexit. Pundits say the key to the industry’s future success will be what arrangements are implemented for moving goods into and out of the UK once it is no longer a member of the EU. Currently, there are no duties, tariffs or restrictions placed on exhibition or event materials brought to the UK from other EU-member countries. Industry lobbyists are fighting to have that arrangement remain the case going after the UK departs from the organization. If not, imports still have a mechanism for being brought into the country under the rules of the World Trade Organization, a body with trade agreements in place between nearly every country in the world.

Though UK officials will need to reapply for individual membership with the Carnet chain once they dissolve membership in the EU, researchers at London firm Political Lobbying & Media Relations say that using ATA Carnes will be the savior of the international tradeshow industry in the UK. The ATA Carnet system, a collaboration between the World Customs Organization and the World Chambers Federation, permits the movement of goods into and out of a country without tariffs or duties so long as what is brought in is brought back out within a year’s time. Businesses from EU-member countries have not previously needed to submit ATA Carnets when doing expositions and events in the UK, but if the UK pursues continued membership in the organization, then the process can make the border as seamless as it is now under EU membership.

Watching the machinations over exit agreements come and go without resolve, officials from an array of British associations, including Event Suppliers & Services Association, Association of Events Organizers, and Association of Event Venues, expressed their frustration to UK-based Exhibition News about the uncertainty. With little other power, they host a continuing dialogue with their members in the way of forums, speakers and webinars, to explore possible ramifications of the exit and ways that businesses can circumvent or at least plan for potential challenges.

Leadership at London ExCel, Britain’s premier events venue with more than 1 million square feet of space, took an optimistic tone regarding Brexit in a statement published to the facility’s website. Though it is surrounded at the moment with uncertainty, officials wrote, the departure may in fact represent a net benefit for the industry. Citing a boost in visits following the vote and positive indications from European financial markets, executives assured the world that London is very much open for business post-Brexit and will remain one of the world’s greatest business and financial centers.

Cynthya Porter is a 70-time award-winning journalist recognized by national and international associations for her journalistic expertise in tradeshow topics, travel writing, photography and news. She has covered the exhibition industry since 2011 and, though she makes her home in the Midwest, she travels the world in search of interesting stories and photographs.

This story originally appeared in the September/October issue of Exhibit City News, p. 51. For original layout, visit


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