On the 21st July, a little under a month after the announcement of the UK’s EU referendum result, we gathered a dozen leaders from the Isle of Man’s public and private sectors in a room at Boston HQ. The goal was to discuss the possible impact on the Isle of Man economy and how to respond. This is the third of four blogs unpacking the discussions and comments from that day. You can also download the full transcript of the meeting here.
Ten out of our eleven voting contributors (the Chair didn’t vote) felt that overall, Brexit would be net positive for the Isle of Man. Only one opted for “don’t know”, despite the caution around the table about making concrete predictions so early in the process. The range of potential opportunities outlined by the different specialists at the table were really very exciting.
First on the list was a staple in such discussions, yet still very important: the Isle of Man’s agility was quickly identified as a key component in almost all of the opportunities available. In times of change, it is those who can innovate quickly who will see the greatest gains, and we have the opportunity to do exactly that. There was a word of caution sounded on this subject, however, with one contributor rightly pointing out that we may require more legislative draftsmen to keep up with coming changes, and that we are actually understaffed in this area compared to Jersey.
It was felt in that financial services, the break from Europe could allow the Island to take a slightly different approach on regulation that could be very attractive for international wealth. It was stressed that this would not necessarily mean increasing the Island’s risk profile, but simply to create a regime that is more client-centric and service focused than the direction the EU is taking. Possible movements in private wealth concentrations was also flagged as a potential area of benefit, so long as the Island was able to steal a march in terms of forming a proposition and then getting its message out internationally.
One of the most exciting opportunities for me was raised by our public sector contributors, and revolved around the Enterprise Development Scheme launched this year. This £50 million sovereign wealth fund aimed at encouraging startups and relocations to the Isle of Man has already had massive interest, for obvious reasons. It was stressed, however, that we can only expect a significant increase in enquiries regarding the scheme in context of Brexit, as Westminster’s regional investment policies will be substantially disrupted by the loss of EU funds and therefore funding will be harder to come by in many parts of the UK.
The potential for greater devolution or even secessionism within the UK was flagged as a potential long term opportunity. The Isle of Man could potentially be very well positioned to attract business from rising regional capitals such as Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast in the event of such a breakup.
For me, the fact that our gaming sector will be largely unaffected by Brexit is a huge positive, as it means we have a stable technology base here that we can leverage to attract new sectors. For me, having the EU held increasingly at arm’s length could be a massive opportunity for us to act as a ‘data sovereignty’ hub and in this area I want us to use our agility to stay a step ahead of the UK. If we become data friendly, the benefits could be huge.
When it comes to leveraging these opportunities, what will be crucial for success is the right mix of competition and collaboration. That’s the subject of our next blog in this series, released next week.
Are you interested in more detail? You can download the full transcript of the Boston Brexit Forum here.