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NEC Group expansion could be delayed by Brexit

Group CEO Paul Thandi tells M&IT a Leave vote would discourage investment and conference business

Pictured: Paul Thandi, CEO of the NEC Group, has warned that a Brexit could delay the group's expansion

The chief executive of the NEC Group has warned that the group's expansion plans could be put on the backburner if the UK votes to leave the European Union (EU).

Paul Thandi says that economic uncertainty following a Leave vote would continue for the next five years, and would directly affect the group's plans to build out its leisure and entertainment business on-site.

It comes after the NEC Group revealed that uncertainty around the EU referendum had already cost them a major textile machinery exhibition (ITMA 2017) worth £600 million, after organisers decided against the UK because of the possibility of a Leave vote.

Speaking to M&IT ahead of the referendum this Thursday 23 June, Thandi said a Leave vote would draw out the economic uncertainty, which would discourage investors.

"If we vote Leave there will be economic uncertainty for the next five years. Economic uncertainty leads to a declining economy, which means job losses, lack of investment opportunities," he said.

"In order to build out I am talking to international investors, property funds and UK and international investment markets. If you look at it now, everyone is sat on their hands because they're scared of what will happen if we do exit. Economies thrive on confidence. If we're in economically unstable environment people are not looking to invest much."

The NEC Group's expansion plans, which go as far as 2040, include focusing on the leisure market, by expanding Resorts World along with its ticketing and catering businesses.

Thandi said leaving the EU could lead to job losses for employees, adding: "The knock on effect to customers is they're not going to get the same level of services they enjoyed previously or the same level of choice, plus they won't get to see the vision we've got.

"We absolutely need to operate in an economically stable environment."

Thandi said leaving the European Union would also have a "huge" knock-on effect for the number of international exhibitions and conventions due to visa regulations.

"The UK isn't part of the Schengen Agreement, irrespective of the EU referendum, which already puts us at a disadvantage when trying to attract international events to the UK. If you’re a textile manufacturer in China arranging a trip to a trade show in France, for example, you can apply for one visa that will enable you to attend the show and then travel across Europe to meet with other business contacts – but if you visit the UK you’ll need to apply for a separate visa. It’s an extra layer of complication that deters visitors from growing economies.

"If we exit the EU, we’d be at an even greater disadvantage. In addition to making it harder to visit the UK, there’s a chance we’d move out of the European show rotation schedule which is crucial to our business. If we moved into the global rotation the NEC Group could be less likely to win business because we’re not based in a capital city."

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