Comment By BVAA Director Rob Bartlett

‘The More Things Change…

…the more things stay the same’ is how the old French proverb goes.*

It used to be trotted out regularly by a former Father of the Association at BVAA Board meetings, and I always thought of it, on the whole, as a wise and very insightful observation. Afterall, Associations live and die by ‘change’ – we constantly endeavour to up our game and change with the demands and fashions of the time, to deliver yet more value.

In doing so, the ‘strong and stable’ [remember that?] core of our offering remains pretty much - well - constant. In short, we give members what they want. Such constancy is a laudable attribute, but we keep our eyes and ears wide open to the thoughts of our people. It’s partly why we currently have a record membership.

In my last ‘Comment’ I mused on the scenarios ahead of us as a nation regarding ‘Brexit’ and here we are, just three months later, with several predictions having come true, and what a ‘change’ that’s delivered! Where we are now is thanks in the main to an unbelievable case of hubris on the part of our ‘middle way’ political party who fired the starting pistol, too close to their own heads as it turned out.

The electorate got their chance to stick the knife into those they felt had not listened, or more likely, they felt had turned the Mother of all Parliaments into an international laughing stock.

‘The More Things Change… Many of us don’t like the new destination. But few would argue now that perpetual uncertainty was a better choice. We may however just have entered the eye of the storm.

Now the real work starts, the ‘real deal.’ The one about trade, which, before the goalposts got moved, was also what it was all about when my parents’ generation voted us into the ‘Common Market’. That was better for UK plc too apparently.

There have been many times over the decades that I have served industry, that I have wistfully thought how much better it would be if only my industry was so much bigger, like aerospace or motor vehicles.

Now however I’m just a tiny bit grateful that I represent a smaller industry. It used to be that big meant powerful. You carried a big stick into DTI, Government, etc. With that stick you got solid leverage and excellent concessions and support.

Now however, I can’t help but think that if you’re holding a gem of British industry, you’re effectively a bargaining chip, to be thrown into the pot when the big plays are made. If I were a fisherman right now, I would have no faith whatsoever that my nation’s fish stocks were ‘coming home’ for example. That’ll be traded ‘in the National interest’. As will others. I’m sure the drama – and potential for serious damage - isn’t over just yet.

*plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Spring 2020 // Issue 52
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