31 Oct 2017
Discussing the implications of Brexit on any business trip to Europe is unavoidable, though it helps that Scotland voted the way it did.
Glasgow Chamber’s Board took the view that, whatever the outcomes from the negotiations, we should do our best to strengthen trading ties wherever we could. In the last month we have visited both Berlin and Nuremberg, and we will be in Milan next week promoting trade for our members and investment for the city.
The relationship with Berlin is founded on our shared hosting of next year’s European Championships, and helpfully the German capital will also have a permanent presence from the Scottish Government in its innovation and investment hub.
Berlin has expanding clusters in the digital and creative industries, health care, power engineering and optical sectors. The UK also provides Berlin with its largest and fastest growing tourism market, with over 1.2 million visiting each year.
Nuremberg became Glasgow’s first twin city in 1985 and, like Glasgow, has a proud industrial and commercial trading history. It still draws effectively on its heritage of toys - holding the largest toy fair in the world, sausages - the smell of bratwurst hangs temptingly across its well restored medieval city centre, and gingerbread.
But equally, it is strong on automotive engineering, energy and medical equipment. The University of Glasgow is a relatively recent customer, buying a 7 Tesla MRI scanner for its Imaging Centre of Excellence at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital from the Siemens operation in Nuremberg.
The city also holds Germany’s largest Christmas market, attracting an astonishing 2.5 million visitors from across the world.
Sceptics argue twinning arrangements are not much more than civic tourism. But it was perfectly clear from our discussions with Nuremberg Chamber that work done under the twinning, especially to share experiences in vocational educational practice and open up work experience opportunities for the young, was valuable.
It was certainly clear too that there are more contacts in Nuremberg that know the Glasgow opportunity than we might otherwise have expected. The warmth towards a deeper trading relationship with Glasgow was obvious.
Let’s not be blind to the impact of Brexit. We met just as many in Germany’s Chamber movement who expect – and indeed want – a hard Brexit, as want a softer deal. Now is the time to make the most of all those twinning deals.
Frankly we need all the help we can get.