When you pick up a paper or read the front page of a news website, many of the stories will likely be about Brexit. However, as students, we have been told not to talk about Brexit as law firms are bored of it and no one knows what’s going to happen anyway. The media may have us believing otherwise, but there are other things going on in the world besides Brexit. Below are some of the stories I am currently following.
Climate change and environmental disasters
Thanks to Extinction Rebellion, the climate change debate remains squarely in the spotlight. In addition, the last few months have been peppered with large-scale national disasters, such as Hurricane Dorian, typhoons across Asia, bush fires in Australia and floods in Spain. These events will have repercussions for businesses either by way of assets and insurance or due to their effect on the wider economy. Talking about why firms should be aware of their practices and how these issues can affect clients can be a good commercial awareness talking point.
Hong Kong protests
The recent Hong Kong protests are in response to a law that would allow extradition from Hong Kong to mainland China. This has now been withdrawn, but protests continue between pro and anti-government groups. This is a good topic to follow as law firms have large markets in Asia and knowing the cultural and historical background between Hong Kong and China is important. Social conflict can significantly impact consumer markets and tourism and have long-term implications for Hong Kong as a business hub.
Huge tariffs are being applied to a range of US goods – from food to fuel – in China and vice versa. These tariffs stem from Trump’s accusations that China has unfair trading standards and engages in IP theft and his policy encouraging Americans to buy US goods over imported ones. Negotiations to end the trade war are ongoing, but businesses around the world are still being affected.
Not a day goes by where the British high street or its supermarkets are not in the news. Brexit does play a big part in this respect, but there are other factors affecting the demise of the high street which could be worth discussing. The rise of fast fashion and online shopping (and the consequential effects on the climate) are good starting points. However, even with online outlets, brands are still reporting losses and closing stores. The Arcadia group is a good story to follow in this regard. In June it narrowly avoided collapse, and there are now plans to move what was once a retail empire entirely online. In an interview, it might be worth discussing the legal work behind restructuring a retail business.
Supermarkets aren’t faring fantastically well either. Brexit is creating significant uncertainty regarding fresh food, and businesses are spending a lot on contingency plans without knowing whether they will be needed. Supermarkets are also coming under fire for the waste that they produce, and environmental strategies are more needed than ever. Businesses such as Sainsbury’s and Waitrose are reorganising, and even Aldi has reported a profit loss recently (albeit due to large store investment).