Brexit - Risk v Opportunity

Irrespective of political affiliation or personal viewpoint, I think it’s fair to say that few Brits woke up on 24th June 2016 genuinely expecting to hear the news the UK was exiting the European Union.

Cue national and international shock and panic, then the inevitable realization that the sky wasn’t falling in after all, and the restoration of relative calm. I say ‘relative’ - several weeks of political resignations, appointments and withdrawals followed. So fast moving are the developments, I have had to write and re-write this editorial several times, just to keep up!

I was personally delighted when the governing Conservative party sensibly (but a tad over-dramatically) curtailed their leadership contest. Theresa May - as party leader and Prime Minister – is widely regarded as a ‘safe pair of hands.’ All I will say about ‘Brexiteer’ Boris Johnson’s miraculously short period in the political wilderness is that I largely predicted his resurrection in February. His talents are many, although the choice of Foreign Minister is either inspired or risky – only time will tell. There’s good news in the appointment of capable and experienced hands looking after the Exchequer, ‘Brexit’ and International Trade.

The first appointment is vitally important, the second and third are absolutely essential.

After 43+ years in the EU, we are now entering the unknown (or at least the largely forgotten) and with that comes a huge perception of risk. This perception generates anxiety and uncertainty, and they are no-one’s friends in business.

Modern British Industry is a world away from its 1973 ancestor. We need to ensure we’re not forgotten in the scramble to come, and there is a vitally important role for trade associations in this new era.

Those of us who remember a vigorous Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) would welcome its successor’s revival from the current small, under-resourced unit. Moving to an ‘International Trade’ focus will need more financial support from Government.

While I’m sure that the untwining from the EU will create many freedoms, there’s not a lot of point in pursuing the resultant opportunities if they are not adequately supported financially, as they’ll otherwise remain wistful rather than exploitable.

That said, it’s also largely in the hands of the individual company CEOs to decide to pursue, or not, an international trade agenda as part of their own company strategies.

Published in Valve User Magazine Issue 38

Autumn 2018 // Issue 46
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