Consulting industry associations call for open trade after Brexit

23 October 2017 8 min. read
More news on

The European consulting industry has issued a joint call for all governments across the EU to support open trade and easy movement of consultants between the EU and the UK after Brexit. The leaders of thirteen national consulting associations, including the MCA, published the collective manifesto at a special meeting of the industry’s European Federation on October 16th.

The growing prospect of a Hard Brexit which restricts trade and immigration between the EU and UK, or even a dreaded ‘no deal’ scenario, have placed multiple industries under acute pressure. The combination of a faltering negotiation strategy, and a government significantly weakened by a hung Parliament from June’s shock elections have seen the UK edging further from a Brexit that would favour trade and jobs, in favour of appeasing hard-line anti-immigration sentiment among a sizable minority of the British electorate.

UK management consulting has been a key asset to the British economy as a whole throughout the years. It is presently the second most developed consulting industry in the world, behind the US market, and is also a vital component of the wider European industry. Recently, the Management Consulting Association revealed that growth in the sector was slowing at an alarming rate. The UK’s industrial arbiter concluded this was likely a knock-on-effect from the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, which had impacted on client’s willingness to hire external expertise. The MCA concluded that as the management consulting market is often an indicator for coming economic turbulence, as with the global financial crisis of 2008, its cooling off was a cause for concern for British business.

EU flag + UK flag

Consulting industry leaders from thirteen major EU economies, including Britain’s MCA, have urged governments across the continent, including Britain, to preserve the trade and living arrangements that have enabled the management consulting market to sustain its growth, with the UK market, the largest in the region, reaching a value of £7 billion in 2017. The statement, which noted, “A vibrant and expert consulting sector is a key component of a strong economy and healthy society,” was backed by the heads of thirteen representative industry bodies. The associations for management consulting firms united to call for open trade and easy movement of consultants between the EU and the UK after Brexit, at a special meeting of their European federation, held on Monday October 16th in Paris.

The associations contended that Europe’s position as a global centre and powerhouse for consulting services is an important source of economic strength and innovation, while claiming the “ease of trade in consulting services throughout the EU and the free movement of people across our borders” have underpinned the industry’s ability to deliver the highest quality services for clients in recent decades. The key aims of the bodies’ requests were for the EU and the UK to maintain at least the current levels of free and open trade in consulting services; the maximisation of UK and EU27 nationals in the consulting trade to travel, live and work freely within the both locations post-Brexit; and the enabling all European and British consulting firms to invest easily and establish offices throughout the UK and EU.

Alan Leaman, Chief Executive of the MCA (Management Consultancies Association), the UK industry body for consulting firms, said, “UK consulting is recognised across Europe as a great asset. We can bring together talent and insight from across the continent, and this has greatly helped our clients around the world. Most importantly, we should now preserve the flexibility and speed with which consultants can currently move for work between the EU and the UK. It is now vital for the Brexit negotiations to focus on the win-win of open and flexible commercial and migration agreements.”

Besides that of the MCA, has featured analysis from four of the signatories, in recent months. Earlier in 2017, the French Consult’in France reported its constituent industry had grown by 8.5% last year, while Italy’s Assoconsult, and Spain’s AEC found that in 2016 their respective consultancy markets have booked their best performance in years.

The full list of signatories can be found below, along with the unedited statement.

Quote Alan Leaman - MCA

A statement from FEACO and the European associations of management consulting firms

We are the leaders of the many national associations and industry bodies that represent management consulting firms within the European Union. Between us, we speak for a large majority of Europe-based firms. We are proud that Europe is a global centre and powerhouse for high-quality management consulting capability. Our industry is an important source of economic strength.

Our member firms create wealth, jobs, tax revenues and export earnings that benefit our governments, citizens and wider societies. Even more important is the impact of the work our members do to improve wider economic and business performance. The contribution of consulting firms enables client businesses to grow and innovate, employ more people, digitise their operations and win work around the world. Consulting is an essential driver in the adoption of advanced technologies, organisational excellence, new ways of working and the advancement of science and research. Consulting firms also provide vital support in the progressive development of efficient public services for European citizens.

The ability of European nations to compete successfully in major global markets, develop cutting edge products and build major new industries, is substantially aided by the work of our leading consulting firms. Consulting has enabled European economies to manage and integrate the pan-national value and supply chains in manufacturing, infrastructure and digital on which so much of our success depends. A vibrant and expert consulting sector is a key component of a strong economy and healthy society.

In recent decades, our industry’s achievements have increasingly been underpinned by the ease of trade in consulting services throughout the EU and the free movement of people across our borders. These have provided client organisations with a greater choice of expert and skilled consultants, facilitated greater learning and sharing of good practice throughout Europe, and enabled European consulting firms to build multi-national and diverse teams of talented consultants and to deliver the highest quality outcomes for their clients.

We are therefore united in our efforts to ensure that our industry is not damaged and, if possible, is strengthened after the UK leaves the EU. The risks associated with Brexit are many. It is already harming the UK’s ability to attract talented EU nationals and investment. While many of us regret the UK’s decision, we believe that we must now work together to create the best outcome for all.

We urge political leaders of both the UK and the EU27 to agree to:

  • maintain at least the current levels of free and open trade in consulting services between our countries. Where possible, we should reduce trade and tariff barriers, not add to them;
  • maximise the ability of UK and EU27 nationals who are consultants to travel, live and work freely within the EU27 and the UK;
  • enable all European and British consulting firms to invest easily and establish offices through the UK and EU27, helping to build capability and serve clients throughout Europe.

Management consulting has long been a great asset and inspiration for us all and a vital part of the wider European consulting industry. We are all committed to maintaining the closest possible links and greatest possible integration after Brexit.

The statement has been signed by:

  • Austria - WKO - Alfred Harl and Philip Graf
  • Denmark - Association of Danish Management Consulting Firms (ADMCF) Henrietta Soltoft
  • FEACO - Ezio Lattanzio
  • France - Consult’in France - Remi Legrand
  • Germany - BDU - Matthias Loebich
  • Greece - SESMA - Pantelis Koukos
  • Hungary - VTMSZ - Peter Csakvari
  • Italy - Assoconsult - Giovanni Benedetto
  • Portugal - APPC - Jose Pinho
  • Romania - AMCOR
  • Slovenia - AMCOS - Majda Dobravc and Viljenka Godina
  • Spain - AEC - Jordan Casals and Manuel Giralt
  • UK - Management Consultancies Association - Alan Leaman