A business vision for Brexit

Added by Chris Pateman | Monday 3rd April 2017

Been listening a lot to fellow trade association professionals, the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and the CBI chatting about the Great Repeal in the last week or so.  It brought me to realise one of the reasons we hear so much negative babble about Brexit is that we have a whole generaton of managers who have grown up knowing only the EU regime.  And who are therefore naturally scared of the unknown. 

As anyone who has had to deliver successful company mergers will tell you, it’s the cultural norms which are always the hardest to identify and the most resistant to change. But in the case of the EU, this is actually a hugely powerful opportunity to articulate the new case for a business-focused, business-responsive UK regulatory regime.

For years, there has been a widespread sense of helplessness and futility among business leaders in general, and SME business leaders in particular, regarding EU legislation.  Leaving aside the handful of powerful conglomerates who have the resources to lobby and influence (often at least partially financed by their own governments), the first most business people hear about as new piece of EU regulation is when somebody tells them they will no longer be able to sell/buy/advertise such and such-a-thing or in such-and-such a way by the end of next year.  And when they go to point out how silly or unworkable that particular suggestion is, they discover it’s far too late to do anything about it, because they should have been talking to Brussels two years ago.

The effect is to breed into our managers the kind of fatalistic, no-point-appealing-against-it mentality which makes it so easy for bureaucrats to control industry.  How would it be if they had, instead, a vision of what it will be like when industry once again controls the bureaucrats? 

Most businesses just want to be left alone to get on with things.  And preferably accorded the courtesy of being asked for the benefit of their experience, in the event governments feel they need to change legislation which might affect their ability to trade. 

Brexit is our opportunity to state again – and often – and consistently -- that their opinion actually matters.  It will be a new experience for a whole generation of managers.  It will be the means by which we truly DO unlock the nation’s entrepreneurial spirit.  And we already have the processes in place:  government departments issue consultations on a regular basis, and our various national regulators – from Ofcom to the CMA – are already truly world-class.  There is no huge learning curve up which carefully we must grope our way before we can use these resources to encourage and empower British business.

Do our industries and their associations have the vision?  Does the CBI?  Does Government?