The hospitality industry's uncertainties around Brexit could continue beyond 2019 unless prime minister Theresa May can finalise a deal with the European Union in the time she has been allocated.
That was the assessement of columnist and broadcaster Steve Richards of Rock ‘n' Roll Politics, as he kicked off sessions today at the British Hospitality Association Hospitality and Tourism Summit 2017 at De Vere Grand Connaught Rooms in London's Covent Garden with a talk about the nearing general election.
Richards predicted that even if May managed to retain her position following the general election on 8 June, she will still have to face a "difficult mountain" of Brexit negotiations.
"Even if she wins every seat on Friday, the EU will be unmoved by her majority," Richards said. "The question is: can Theresa May finalise Brexit in the time she's been allocated? If there is an implementation phase after March 2019, the EU will insist that freedom of movement and other EU-related principles will still apply to the UK, so it's possible that all of the things that concern the hospitality industry will still be current beyond 2019."
The columnist admitted that he was pessimistic about the outcome of Brexit, saying it was "ambiguous" and "messy".
He said: "The only time Brexit will differ is if the outcome is a hung parliament. If Theresa wins by landslide all the turbulence of this campaign will be quickly forgotten. However, if she wins [a majority of] 60 seats or below she is in trouble. If it is a hung parliament then I think May will have to resign on Friday."
"This campaign has diminished May. She is shy." Richards added, "Most politicians love the theatre of politics and they love the stage, but she is so incapable of public performance. She kept a low profile during Brexit, she didn't play a part in 2015 or 2010 elections. She's now called an election and framed the manifesto around her, which is almost doomed to go wrong."
Topics covered at the summit today include restaurants and how eating habits are changing, aviation and the importance of connectivity to the hospitality sector, the changing face of distribution, and the rise of serviced apartments and aparthotels and their potential threat to traditional hotels.
Welcoming guests to the event this morning, Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the BHA said: "Everything we do at the BHA aims to pull the industry together. We believe the clearer we are and the more coherent we are will enable us to be closer to achieving our goals. Huge issues are affecting our industry, particularly Brexit, massive rises in business and employment costs, and high levels of tax.
"Hospitality has created one in five jobs in the last five years. Despite shocks, our industry has proven its resilience and we will bite back. Our industry is so viable and unparalleled by others, where you can enter at the lowest level and work your way up to the highest."
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