David Parkin on Yorkshire’s Finest, Brexit bother and a 21st century play problem

I LEFT Eversheds’ Leeds office suitably inspired the other day after hosting their Yorkshire’s Finest event.

A celebration of the best of the region’s food and drink, white rose bunting adorned the law firm’s glass atrium in Bridgewater Place, Yorkshire’s tallest building.

And the Yorkshire’s Finest theme didn’t just apply to the refreshments – it equally applied to all of the guests, who represented some of the most creative and successful companies and organisations from across the region.

It also was a fitting description for the panel of speakers: Sir Gary Verity of Welcome to Yorkshire, Mark Arthur, chief executive of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council and Ron McMillan, chairman of Welcome to Yorkshire and a non-executive director for stock market groups such as N Brown, B&M, 888 Holdings and SCS.

Sir Gary joined us straight from Paris where he had been at the announcement of the host city for the Tour de France’s Grand Depart next year.

I got the impression he didn’t think Dussseldorf will be able to offer what Yorkshire did so impressively.

And, fresh from securing the cycling Road World Championships for Yorkshire in 2019, he is supremely confident Le Grand Depart will be back here soon.

Chatting to him before the event, he was telling me about his experience out in Qatar, where this year’s Road World Championships were held and where the Yorkshire 2019 announcement was made.

He confirmed the lack of spectators out in Doha, but said the infrastructure that Qatar has put in place to enable it to secure prestigious sporting events, such as the football World Cup in 2022, is hugely impressive.

Apparently Leeds Bradford Airport would fit into the gents toilet at Doha’s Hamad International Airport.

If you need a speaker to bang the drum for Yorkshire’s Finest, then Sir Gary is your man.

He gave a short speech and then the other panellists joined us on stage.

Yorkshire County Cricket Club missed out on a third successive County Championship in the final hours of the final day of the final match of the season and did impressively in the cup competitions too.

With the Ashes returning to Headingley in 2019 for the first time in 10 years, there is plenty for YCCC to be positive about.

But Mark Arthur is looking further ahead and warned that the creaking stand the cricket club shares with its rugby neighbours needs to be completely redeveloped if the historic old ground is to look ahead with confidence to a bright future.

Mark spent 13 years as chief executive of Nottingham Forest and so when the sporting talk turned to football, he was able to describe what a successful Leeds United could bring to the city.

If the club can ever replicate the success of the Leeds-based cricket and rugby league clubs, then the opportunities are limitless.

Introducing Ron McMillan, who after 38 years at PwC, has a portfolio of non-executive directorships, I pointed out that his role at SCS makes him the right man to talk to about a sofa.

“And they sell very good carpet too,” added Ron.

“Order now in time for Christmas,” quipped Gary.

“Actually, I don’t think they would be able to deliver it in time,” said Ron earnestly.

Tom Riordan was looking forward to the opening of the Victoria Gate shopping centre this week and the arrival, finally of John Lewis to Leeds.

Turning to transport matters he revealed that the council is taking a pragmatic, realist approach to trying to improve the creaking transport infrastructure around the city.

It is not going to get the hundreds of millions, or even billions, that it takes to build new rail lines and roads, so it is looking at new approaches.

The idea of adding a stop and a link to Leeds Bradford Airport near the Bramhope Tunnel, is one option and in these days of public sector spending limitations, creativity is needed.

I stepped off the stage to have a brief word with John Heaps, chairman of Yorkshire Building Society and a former chairman at Eversheds.

Asked about Leeds’ position as a major centre of finance and commerce, John said the city’s position will be strengthened as part of the wider Northern Powerhouse initiative.

And he said talent in this region is strong. YBS has just announced that Mike Regnier is to take over from Chris Pilling as chief executive.

Mike is currently chief customer officer at the society and John said that while the headhunters appointed were given the brief to search for quality candidates across the world, including individuals in California and Australia, the final two shortlisted both were existing directors of Yorkshire Building Society.

After the Q&A session I got our panellists to draw the raffle prizes.

The main prize winner had the choice of two tickets to the Scotland v Ireland Six Nations rugby match next year or two tickets to see Strictly Come Dancing at the O2 Arena.

Collecting his prize, the winner decided to take the rugby tickets, even though he confided to us that his wife is a big Strictly fan.

“You’ll be in trouble if she finds out you picked the rugby tickets,” I suggested.

“I won’t tell her I had a choice,” he replied.


I WAS round at a friend’s house for Sunday lunch on a glorious autumn day the other week.

My friends’ and other guests’ children were happily playing in the garden as I tried to keep a nice bottle of Chablis to myself in one corner of the kitchen.

Glancing out of the window, I noticed the children were all gathered in a cluster on the lawn staring up at the roof.

“Has an exotic bird landed on your roof?” I asked my hosts.

They said no. Perhaps it was the Battle of Britain World War Two flight overhead, I suggested?

“No, it’s just their drone has crash landed on the roof,” said my host.


AT the aforementioned Eversheds event, I had the chance to ask partner Robin Johnson – perhaps the most well travelled corporate lawyer in the land – about his views on Brexit.

His answer was grave but focused on what we need to do now.

“Let’s be clear 23rd June 2016 changed the UK. History will judge that change. However we can’t dwell and wait,” he said.

People talk about a hard or soft Brexit, but Robin said that the government, while Theresa may is in charge, is clear, they are looking for a ‘clean’ Brexit.

“This means the UK will not have some deal on free trade around what we have now, she is saying we will leave the customs union and start again – a clean break.

“While the exit negotiations carry on until 2019 or whenever, there is no requirement under article 50 to discuss trade. An exit under article 50 requires the approval of the European Parliament and the heads of states. A trade deal requires European approval BUT also the approval of each member state.

“Last week the Walloon regional government in Belgium stopped the Canadian EU free trade deal – what chance has the UK to get a trade deal over the line by 2019? Zippo.”

Robin believes that this means trade between the UK and the EU will be subject to tariffs, particularly steep on food and drink and so there will be benefits for food manufacturers supplying within the UK for UK consumers but it will be bad news for food exporters.

His view is clear: “For Yorkshire there is no point crying over spilt milk or bawling into a bacon sarny, we must as a region fight for our place in the world economy. we should have started planning on 24/25th June. We are already six months behind.”

Robin would like to see a version of former regional development agency Yorkshire Forward being reinvented to focus on key industries strong in Yorkshire such as food and drink, hi-tech engineering, education and biomedical.

“We need to establish trade links with other regions like states in Germany – we have council links already with Dortmund, regions in China, cities in the States.

“Devolution for Yorkshire on trade is key. We can sort transport later! We need to start planning yesterday not sometime in 2017.”


IF you are due to attend a law firm’s event in Yorkshire in the near future and you are stuck for something to say, then I can help.

And if you haven’t been invited to a legal drinks do then you need to make more effort, I’ve been to three this week.

So, having secured the invitation, when you are at the party and making small talk, just congratulate the host firm on their success at the recent Yorkshire Legal Awards.

There were 20-odd gongs handed out so it’s very likely whichever firm you are with won one.

Mind you, I remember going to the event years ago and seeing the joint chairmen of the awards present each other with lifetime achievement awards.

Have a great weekend.

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