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The British Chamber of Commerce for Italy – The President’s update

The British Chamber of Commerce for Italy – The President’s update

Official information from The British Chamber of Commerce for Italy
Published on  easymilano.com  date 19/01/2020 

Dear Friends,

Brexit will happen at 23.00 GMT on 31 January 2020*

After three and a half years of debate, delay and confusion – and whether you like the outcome or not – we can now finally say this with certainty.

What is less clear is what happens after Brexit.

Those of you anxious about an instant ‘cliff-edge’ in January can breathe a little more easily. From 1 February, the UK and EU will enter an 11-month transition period during which, effectively, there will be no disruption to people and businesses: life will carry on much as it is right now. However, these same 11 months represent all the time which the UK and the EU will have to negotiate and agree the future relationship between them.

As we know, it took much more than a year to reach a deal on the withdrawal agreement, the ‘simple divorce’ which covers only three issues – the UK’s financial settlement to the EU, citizens’ rights and the Irish border. So, you will not be alone if you think it ambitious to fix 11 months to negotiate and conclude a global agreement on matters as hugely complex, detailed and potentially controversial as trade in all goods and services, movement of people and workers, data protection, intellectual property, energy matters and security cooperation (to name but a few). But fixing 11 months is precisely what the UK Parliament has just done in passing the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill. For it prohibits the government from seeking or agreeing to an extension of the transition period, even though extensions are explicitly contemplated in the withdrawal agreement. The UK is setting its negotiators – and those of the EU – a task which is beyond herculean and, what is more, failure to get a deal by the end of the transition period would be very likely to trigger a hard Brexit on 1 January 2021.

So, 2020 will be a year of furious activity on the new EU-UK relationship. We don’t need to tell you that Brexit represents the single most significant and seismic shift in the relationship between the UK and the world since the break-up of the British Empire. And during this change, it is our role to assist our businesses to understand what Brexit means for them and to help them navigate the uncharted waters of a world without Britain in the EU.

The Chamber stands ready to support any of its members having concerns or questions on Brexit, whether through other members with special expertise, through our institutional partners in the UK Embassy and Consulate, or through our own initiatives and events in the coming year.

In that regard, I can announce that in January, we will be joining our member, Rothschild Bank, on a Brexit roadshow around Italy. We start in Catania on 8 January, then to Rome on 9 January, Napoli (10 January), Bologna (15 January), Torino (16 January), Padova (17 January), finishing in Milano on 20 January. If you are interested in attending any of these events, please write to marketing@britchamitaly.com.

Then, two working days after Brexit, on 4 February 2020, we will be partnering with our friends at the Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry for the UK and Assolombarda to host a large(!) Brexit afternoon conference at Assolombarda’s headquarters in Milan with the specific aim of addressing the priorities for businesses in the 11 month transition period. More details are to follow on this event but we have confirmation of the presence of our Ambassador as well as several industry experts and key figures. Please mark the afternoon of 4 February in your diary! Further events with a bilateral trade angle will be held in Rome at the offices of Tonucci & Partners, just off the Piazza del Popolo, on 12 February and thereafter in London on 3 March. More details will be available on our website or by getting in touch directly with marketing@britchamitaly.com.

We will of course be offering more events on Brexit as the story develops through the year. But, as I said, if you have any questions or concerns, please get in touch with us.

Leaving Brexit aside for a moment, I want to say a few words about the direction of our Chamber as we move into a new decade. Having myself been involved in the Chamber for some years, first as a member, then as a councillor and a vice-president, and in the past six months as its president, I have seen, with increasing clarity, what it means to be a modern, relevant, useful chamber of commerce and what, in particular, it means to be the British Chamber of Commerce for Italy. This ‘vision’, for want of a better expression, has been reinforced and amplified through the many meetings, discussions and exchanges of views I have had the good fortune to have enjoyed with you, our members. And it can be reduced to this simple statement: we believe in business as a force for positive change.

I italicised the words ‘British’ and ‘for Italy’ in the last paragraph because, as I see it, the way that we, as a chamber of commerce, give life to this belief is by celebrating and advocating British business values in Italy. When, as a Chamber, we talk about ‘British values’, we mean integrity, honesty, trust, fairness and responsibility (amongst other principles); in short ‘doing the right thing’. But we also mean values such as innovation, excellence, teamwork, ambition and passion. We know these values are shared in Italy.

The UK is home to some of the world’s leading institutions and businesses tackling issues such as inequality and climate change and driving developments in state-of-the-art innovation. We want to share and promote that truly British excellence with you, our members here in Italy; we aim to encourage you in addressing the challenge of adapting to better practices and newer ways of doing business and, most of all, we’d love to celebrate with you where you succeed.

This is why, in 2020 and beyond, we will be promoting positive action on important topics such as sustainability, and diversity & inclusion. These are themes of real relevance and importance, not just for the UK and Italy as they prepare to co-host the COP26 at the end of the year – but indeed for the future of the entire planet. Likewise, we will be focusing on innovation, a vital tool in contributing to positive change, specifically in areas such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and fintech.

So, on sustainability, I can announce that our Summer Gala on 14 May will be a ‘Green Gala’ and that we will be introducing, as part of our Business Excellence Awards, two new awards related to sustainability. We will be focusing events in the second half of the year around the COP26 conference with the aim of contributing to moving the world towards a cleaner, more responsible future. Sponsoring a sustainability award or the gala itself will be a great way to promote your business’s credentials in that area. If you are interested in that or in participating in any way in our sustainability events, or on joining our working group on sustainability, please get in touch with me directly at president@britishchamber.it.

On diversity and inclusion, our long-standing councillor Avv. Donatella Cungi and our secretary general, Aaron Pugliesi, have been leading the charge. Many of you attended the first event in a new ‘Diversity is Key’ series in October at EY and heard from a first-rate panel including Giulia Ghiretti and others about how having a diversely-abled workforce can be of real benefit to businesses. It was a truly excellent and revelatory event, to say nothing of being very moving. This will be followed up by two major diversity events in 2020, the first on 27 February, hosted by HSBC and sponsored by UPS, on gender diversity and the second later in the year on chronic diseases. 2019 saw the launch of two working groups on diversity, one led by the aforementioned Donatella Cungi and the other focused specifically on gender balance in the financial world, led by our members Paule Ansoleaga Abascal, Simonetta Cristofari and others. This latter group is known as the BCCI Inclusive Finance Group and they have already wow-ed the Chamber’s community with a series of incredible events in 2019. I know there is much more to come in 2020 and they would love to have you join them. For more information on anything related to diversity and inclusion, please contact our secretary general, Aaron Pugliesi, at secretary.general@britchamitaly.com.

On innovation, 2018 and 2019 saw a flurry of events including a series of lunches with Italian CEOs of major tech, pharma and automotive companies including Pfizer, BMW, Tesla, Amazon, Microsoft and Jaguar Land Rover as well as a major conference on Artificial Intelligence in May. In 2020, we are planning a follow-up to the outstanding Fintech conference, hosted by HSBC last October, and will be looking at the changes which blockchain will be bringing to different sectors, including real estate, tax and legal, commerce and finance. If you are interested in getting involved in any of our Innovation Series events, please get in touch.

Apart from our four ‘core’ themes, there is even more going on at the Chamber. I want to highlight three in particular which I mentioned in my first update in August.

Firstly, our councillor and national delegate, Mariateresa Giussani, has been pushing ahead at pace with developing projects in our regions away from Milan. She has established important links with all our regional secretaries who are based in Emilia Romagna, Toscana, Sicilia, Campania, Lazio, Sardegna, Veneto and Puglia. Look out for more events in those regions in the coming months and if you are based in any of them, we’d like to hear from you. Please do get in touch with Mariateresa (mariateresa.giussani@icloud.com) or any of the local secretaries who you can find on our website. I want to thank Mariateresa for her very hard work and also thank our secretaries, Roger Warwick (Emilia R), Andrew Fattorini (Veneto), Alessandro Dagnino (Sicilia), Salvatore Tramontano (Campania), Stefania Lo Cascio (Puglia) and Kate Taylor (Toscana) for their contributions. I would also like to welcome Silvia Sedda (Sardegna) and Giuseppe Mongiello (Lazio) who took on their roles this year. I would also like to thank Steven Taylor who has come out of hibernation to help look after our emerging presence in London.

Secondly, our councillor and coordinator of the Next Generation initiative, Nicol Ogston, has done fantastic work in growing and developing the initiative which is aimed at professionals who are aged 40 or under. It is now a movement in its own right and Nicol has already led the group through a series of great events and is focussing its ambitions on mentoring and reverse mentoring as well as monthly themed aperitivo evenings. I strongly encourage any professional under-40 based in Milan to get in touch with Nicol (nicol.ogston@britishchamber.it) and hear from him the benefits of being involved in this network. Thank you Nicol for your work!

Thirdly, our Tax and Legal Chapter, led by vice-president Victoria Rowlands and member Avv. Cristiano Cominotto, hosted our T&L community at an aperitivo in November at the Grand Hotel et de Milan, sponsored by our members Studio Previtali and Elena Foulkes. We were also very fortunate to have the presence of Giuseppe Catalano, the President of AIGI, with whom the Chapter hopes to work more closely. Vicki and Cristiano have taken a fantastic lead and are launching into 2020 with a series of ‘tavoli di lavoro’ on relevant topics such as Brexit, Fintech, Cross-border transactions and others. For information on these events and about the Tax & Legal Chapter more generally, please get in touch with Vicki and Cristiano at TnL@britishchamber.it. Thank you Vicki and Cristiano!

There is so much more I could talk about, but there is not enough space! I must quickly highlight our new membership of the British Chambers of Commerce which started a few months ago. It is ‘early days’ but this connection will give us direct access to 53 local chambers of commerce in the UK as well as another 50 internationally. As we enter a challenging new trading environment, this relationship will afford the potential for faster access to new business opportunities.

I warmly invite you all to attend our welcome back aperitivo at 19.00 on 21 January at the Rosa Grand Hotel in Piazza Fontana in Milan at which we will be unveiling our 2020 plans in more detail. In the meantime, I want to close this message with some much-deserved thanks.

First of all, to my fellow councillors at the Chamber for their advice, guidance, and support – thank you Daniel, Vicki, John, Bob, Mariateresa, Nicol, Lesley, Sharon, Donatella, Ignacio, Francesco and Bepi. A very big thank you also to our retired consul general, Tim Flear, whose sound judgment and calm approach was much appreciated not just by me but by my three predecessors. We shall miss Tim but we welcome Tim’s successor, Catriona Graham, whose energy and focus have already widely impressed. While speaking of the UK government representatives, I should say that we receive a great deal of support and encouragement from all parts of the UK in Italy, from our marvellous Ambassador, Jill Morris, and from all who work in her team. Thank you.

I would also like to raise a toast to two people in particular whose commitment to the Chamber in past years has been unwavering. To two former treasurers, Roger King, who stepped down earlier this year after many years of inestimable service and to Arnaldo Carpi, who, following a stint as councillor and treasurer, handled the Chamber’s accountancy until this year. Thank you both.

To our team in the office… It is difficult to comprehend how hard our small team works. But they work extremely hard to support an incredible array and diversity of member services and events including lunches, breakfasts, galas, aperitivos, conferences, seminars, round-tables, golf matches, etc. etc. as well as being the crucial link for you, our members. Thank you to Simona, Maria Rosa and Maria Luisa and thank you to our Secretary General, Aaron. Thank you also to our member, Elena Foulkes, whose motivational work has helped us all do better.

Lastly, I want to thank you, our members for your continued support of the Chamber. We are truly proud that so many great businesses are part of our community; not just the UK flag-bearers, but also our international members with presences in the UK and Italy and, of course, the many, many Italian businesses who like to think bigger than the confines of the Bel Paese and who share a British cuore.

As members together, we can do so much – and, indeed, so much for the good, not just our own, but of the wider world which we inhabit. Those of you who were at our Christmas Gala dinner earlier this month will have heard me talk about our charitable focus. I am delighted to report that, on that evening, you raised €2.228 for the Comitato Fiori di Lavanda, a charity set up by a Chamber member to help the fight against childhood leukaemia. Thank you!

As the new decade begins, let us take stock of the state of our world. And let us make it our aim to leave the decade with a world in considerably better shape than it is now.

I wish you all Buone Feste and look forward to seeing you again at our Welcome Back Aperitivo on 21 January.


Tom Noad
President, The British Chamber of Commerce for Italy

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