A forward look to post-Brexit Britain

Brexit has been dominating the public consciousness, Commons’ discussions and newspaper headlines since the Leave vote; and, this week has brought us the Whitepaper which has set out the UK’s Economic partnership with the EU post-Brexit. Companies have been asking themselves what the impact of Brexit will be and we now have the first indication of the Government’s view of post-Brexit Britain.

Since the referendum, public and private sector organisations have adopted various Brexit planning approaches. In our experience, most organisations have explored their plans for a no deal scenario at a minimum. Although many companies felt they were under-represented in negotiations, the Whitepaper’s softening on the economic arrangements put forward suggest that businesses’ concerns about access to talent and trade have been listened to. Brexit, like GDPR before it, provides an opportunity for businesses to reassess their capabilities. It’s a chance to evidence organisational agility, review their strategy and re-assess their business model. Those organisations that are more accustomed to change and ambiguity will no doubt have an advantage in a post-Brexit Britain.

So what does the Whitepaper actually entail? The four key components of: economic trade, security, cross cutting (such as data) and other institutional arrangements have long been anticipated and it is the economic trade segment that will interest businesses the most. There is a lot to be positive about from a business perspective: frictionless borders, tariff-free trading of goods, and protections for integrated supply chains are all aspects of Brexit that have raised concerns and will be sources of relief.

In case you haven’t had time to read the 98-page blueprint for the county’s future relationship with the European Union, we’ve pulled out the key principles from the economic partnership section: 

  • For the agri-food industry there will be no material change and those organisations and departments will run in the same way; the Government will still participate with key EU agencies and our laws will be harmonised with the EUs to enable frictionless trade.
  • There will be a phased introduction of a facilitated customs arrangement between the UK and EU to give a combined customs territory within Europe but provide the UK with the independence to set our own tariffs for countries outside of Europe.
  • The UK will still continue to participate in key EU agencies that provide market and usage authorisations for goods in highly regulated sectors.
  • No tariffs on any goods, protecting integrated supply chains and ensuring that free trade of goods can happen
  • New arrangements will be put in place for Services and Digital, ensuring the UK can capitalise on these industries of the future.
  • New economic and regulatory arrangements for Financial Services, helping to preserve market integration whilst maintaining stability.
  • We will continue to cooperate with the EU on energy and transport
  • Provisions will be introduced that allow for an open, and fair, trading environment across the UK and EU.
  • We will have a new framework for that respects the UK’s control of its borders whilst also aligning with the EU on key areas and maintaining our commitment to peace in Northern Ireland.

Preparing for Brexit has, and will continue to be, a major pre-occupation for businesses but it is also a genuine opportunity for organisations that can cope with the uncertainty, and thrive on change, to gain competitive advantage. As the Whitepaper highlights, the softening of the economic partnership stance has been tailored to ensure that British businesses can thrive in a global world. For those businesses in the agricultural space, for example, this is just business as usual and for those in impacted areas, the implementation of Brexit could be an opportunity to reset business practices and implement organisational change.

As any change manager knows, waiting to communicate with key stakeholders in transformational programmes is simply not an option. A wait-and-see approach only creates a vacuum for an overactive rumour mill to work; and we’ve seen this with Brexit - in the absence of concrete facts, companies have created their own narratives from the silence. This Whitepaper should help reassure businesses that operate in the UK, providing insights on the government’s stance, and we believe that the time for action is now!

Whatever your views are on the current political environment, organisations need to continue at pace to plan and deliver solutions that best meet their organisational and customer needs by the time the UK leaves the EU. The clock is ticking, are you prepared?

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Joe supports organisations to navigate change by designing, mobilising and delivering large, complex transformation programmes in both the public and private sectors.

Joe Wright Manager

Alex has over 7 years experience as a management consultant in the UK and Australia, focused on strategic and operational transformation across a range of industry sectors.

Alex Dixon Manager