BCC President Francis Martin addresses Annual Conference


Honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

As President of the British Chambers of Commerce, it is my pleasure to welcome you to our 2019 Annual Conference.

We are gathered here today at a pivotal moment for our business communities, for the UK economy, and for our trading relationships around the world.

With all eyes on Westminster, part of our agenda today will invariably focus on the political decisions that will affect our common future.

Yet we are also determined, today, to focus on future business success – and ensuring that the United Kingdom is ready for that future.

Ladies and gentlemen, whatever may happen over the coming days, Chambers of Commerce will be there to inform, help, support and champion our business communities – both here in the UK and across the world.

Some of our Chambers have been representing and campaigning for their business communities for two centuries or more.

And as the first BCC President in history to hail from Northern Ireland, I am confident that Chambers will continue to be at the heart of business life in every nation and region of the UK.

Our 53 UK Chambers, and their 75,000 business members, provide a voice for diverse business communities, with members of every size and sector.

They relentlessly, vigorously, deliver positive change – both locally and nationally.

And they both celebrate and support their communities, and the businesses that drive their prosperity.

Putting it simply - we call it Business Togetherness.

I’d like to take this opportunity to personally thank everyone who contributes to the ongoing success of our Chambers and our business communities.

To the fifteen hundred people working in Chambers across the UK -

To all those businesspeople who give so generously of their time and attention as non-executives and office-holders –

And to the BCC team here in Westminster – thank you all for your tireless efforts.

Our shared work, always important, is even more valuable than ever in this time of great uncertainty and change for the UK.

Yet as President, I am also very proud to say that our Chamber network represents not only every corner of the UK – but also British business communities across the globe.

Connecting businesses locally, nationally and internationally – and enabling trade and commerce – has always been at the core of Chambers’ DNA.

For over 150 years, we have been helping UK businesses to grow and trade successfully around the world.

And I am proud to continue to work with Adam and the whole of the BCC team to expand our global business network, where we now have a fast-growing group of sister British Chambers and business groups in markets all across the world.

We are already represented on every continent, but my ambition as your President is to grow our reach further – and bring together a cohesive network of British Chambers in at least fifty markets this year alone.

This is our response to political uncertainty:

Business communities coming together, to provide help and practical support to trade with Europe and around the world.

I have seen with my own eyes how British Chambers help businesses make global connections and business deals.

They provide face-to-face support and giving firms the guidance they need to break into new markets and find new customers:

Linking businesses in Aberdeen with those in Argentina;

Bridging the gap between Kent and Korea;

And opening doors for firms in Somerset and Swansea in South Africa and Slovenia.

It is my belief that together, we in business can create new opportunities to trade, both with our friends and neighbours in Europe, and around the world.

It is this belief that has driven me in my role as President.

In a few moments, I know that Adam, our Director General, will touch on the latest developments in Brexit – and the importance of fixing the fundamentals for business growth here in the United Kingdom to our future success.

No matter the outcome, we in the Chamber of Commerce movement will maintain our focus on supporting business and global trade.

As the UK embarks on a new chapter, the framework of which is still to be written, it will be business – those who create prosperity, jobs and opportunities working globally and locally – that will be the ultimate determinants of our shared success – not politics or ideology.

This remains our rallying call, one that I know Adam will expand on shortly.

But let me be clear, I have no doubt that the resilience and adaptability of UK business will continue to shine through.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a great line up of speakers and panellists.

Thank you again for joining us and I hope you enjoy the variety and breadth of today’s discussions.

I am delighted to now welcome the Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, Dr Adam Marshall, to the stage.

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