The Brexit clock keeps relentlessly ticking, counting down to an as yet unknown future for the UK. With supposedly under three months before the axe falls there is little or no thinking time for businesses that have not created a contingency plan to meet all situations. As the Brexit saga unravelled it has become all too clear that the attitude displayed by many businesses that “of course “they” will not let “X” “Y” or “Z” happen, “they” will work something out as this is all far too important not to” has proved to be an unsound premise.
Theresa May’s tactic of delaying the parliamentary vote does not appear to have enabled sufficient support to have been whipped up for her deal and she still faces defeat. Europe edges closer every day to a no-deal Brexit with all the bleak implications the failure to strike an acceptable deal facing businesses and individuals. For businesses that have no contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit there seems to be precious little that can be done at this stage. However, to review the areas which will have the greatest impact and put in place some measures to mitigate the potential stumbling blocks to post-Brexit trade is preferable to taking no steps at all.
It has been reported that some businesses have decided to rely heavily on the chance of another referendum which will reverse the initial decision or at least that the whole process will be delayed due to the lack of preparation or a clear agreement. Giambrone does not recommend that either course will necessarily a) happen or b) presents a desirable strategy.
The stark reality of a no deal Brexit, in real terms, is that it has the potential to leave huge numbers of UK businesses struggling to find both staff and markets, leaving them either overloaded with unsaleable commodities or unable to make their products due to materials shortages, together with the inability to get their products across the Channel. In addition to industries, such as the hospitality sector, who are now struggling to find good staff to fill the vacancies traditionally held by EU citizens.
Duncan Brook, the group director, of the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) commented in the Guardian that “Businesses remain under the Brexit cosh. Indecision is squeezing the life out of activity.” Whilst the latest report from the services sector, which covers about 80% of the UK economy, showed November and December as the weakest two months for morale among businesses since March 2009, when the country reached the low point of the recession that followed the financial crisis. All of which supports the declining business confidence felt across the UK.
Theresa May is to make a series of last-ditch telephone calls to several European leaders, including Jean-Claude Juncker, in an attempt to get further written reassurances that her unpopular Northern Ireland backstop part of the deal will not be used, as well as asking for additional clarifications before the House of Commons vote on her Brexit deal. It is to be hoped that one way or another a passable agreement can be hammered out that minimises the pain that so many businesses across Europe and the UK are now feeling.
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