No matter where you sit on the Brexit spectrum, the chances are you don’t think the process of Brexit is going well. One of the few things that the most ardent ‘Brexiteers’ and the staunchest ‘Remainiacs’ can agree on is that we have made a gargantuan hash of Brexit from the moment the referendum result was announced.
The problem is one of uncertainty. No-one likes uncertainty. The markets don’t like it. Financial institutions don’t like it. Big business doesn’t like. Small business doesn’t much like it either for that matter. Even the majority of the general public are pretty fed up with it in this particular instance.
Yet the only thing that Brexit has delivered thus far is exactly that. Uncertainty. And if we are honest, all of the solutions that are currently on the table don’t fare much better either.
A second referendum will deliver months of uncertainty as the country starts the whole debate again. Extending Article 50 will just prolong the current uncertainty. The impact of Theresa May’s deal, should it be approved, is by no means clear, regardless of what amendments she manages to negotiate ahead of the upcoming votes later this month. Then there is No Deal, where the potential scenarios we face range from near normality to total apocalypse depending on which newspaper you read.
It could have all been so different. Remain supporters will argue that if David Cameron hadn’t tried to solve the Conservative Party’s internal divisions on Europe with a ‘take it or leave it’ referendum then we wouldn’t be in this position in the first place. Leave supporters will say that if the Government was led by someone who truly believes in Brexit and who had negotiated with the EU from a position of strength then we wouldn’t have ended up with such a deeply dissatisfactory agreement as we have.
But the fact remains that the referendum was held and the result was clear. A total of 17,410,742 voted to leave the EU. That is 52% of those of voted and a total of 1,269,501 more than voted for remain. It is the single biggest democratic mandate in British political history, which is why both main political parties felt they had little choice but to commit to delivering it in the immediate aftermath.
The fact also remains that, having campaigned so vociferously for Remain, David Cameron was never going to have much credibility trying to remain as Prime Minister after such a result.
Since his resignation, there have been a number of times when the route to where we find ourselves today could have diverged.
If Michael Gove hadn’t walked away from the Boris Johnson campaign for the Conservative leadership, perhaps a true believer in Leave would have ended up in Number 10, rather than the currently Prime Minister, Theresa May, who, having also campaigned for remain, few could honestly describe as being anything more than a reluctant leaver at best.
Equally, having appointed Leave supporting Brexit Secretaries in David Davis and Dominic Raab, the Prime Minister could have then left them to get on with the job of negotiating our exit rather than undermining DExEU and giving remain-backing civil servants such as Olly Robbins the upper hand to run a shadow Brexit department from the Cabinet Office.
It is interesting to note, in their campaigning literature during the referendum, the official Leave campaign said they would not trigger Article 50 until an agreement on how we would leave had been reached. Why did the Government choose to forgo this policy and trigger Article 50 when they did, leading to the countdown that we find ourselves in the midst of now?
What if Theresa May hadn’t called the snap election in 2017 that saw her majority of 17 erased and left her dependent on a confidence and supply arrangement with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party? Her deal may have been approved if she had a proper working majority to play with.
What if Gina Miller hadn’t taken the Government to court to force Parliament to have a vote on the final Brexit decision. Theresa would have just imposed her deal rather than having to seek Parliamentary approval. Of course, Miller, who is a staunch Remainer, could not possibly have imagined that her legal action could push us to the brink of a No Deal Brexit, where we find ourselves today.
But while No Deal remains the default setting as things stand, uncertainty remains the only certainty. Next week, the Government will bring Theresa May’s deal back to Parliament for a third time. It has already been rejected twice and, as things stand, there is little to suggest that it can command a majority this time round either.
The problem is that nothing does. There will also be (non-binding) votes on a No Deal Brexit and extending Article 50 if the Prime Minister’s deal is not approved. But neither of these scenarios have a majority either. Meanwhile, the EU continues to refuse to renegotiate the deal already agreed and warn of the effects of a No Deal Brexit.
In a normal article, this is the point where we would propose some sort of solution. It is where we should be writing “the government should do x, y, z.” But the truth is that we don’t have the answer to this. No-one does. There is only uncertainty.
So where does that leave you? Whether you work in the markets, a financial institution, a large business or a small one, the answer is, in a very uncomfortable position. But while Brexit is a big challenge, it is also an opportunity. A solution will be agreed, sooner or later, and when it is you need to ready to move fast to make the most of it.
While we at Barndoor Strategy can’t offer definitive answers, we can certainly help you to be prepared. We can help to be ready to move the moment Brexit comes to head, regardless of what the outcome may be.
We can do that in a number of ways. Our intelligence networks can ensure that you are in receipt of all the need-to-know information fast. Our experienced team of consultants can advise you on how to react to that information and help to develop a strategy which evolves to the changing circumstances of Brexit.
We have a network of contacts that crosses all of the major parties and parliamentary groups. It reaches into the Leave and Remain camps, encompasses senior political figures directly involved in the Brexit process, and stretches to Brussels and beyond. We can help to put you in front of all the people you need to be speaking with.
And we also offer a unique training service which can help your team to be ready to deal with the consequences of Brexit. You will want to get out in the media and make your response to Brexit public. Or you may want to share your perspective with Parliamentary Committees in Westminster or Brussels. If so, we offer the ideal in-house service for you with bespoke training programmes developed by former Deputy Mayor of London, Roger Evans.
Unlike some public affairs companies, here at Barndoor Strategy, we are honest about the fact that we don’t have all the answers to Brexit. But what we can do is help you to be ready for Brexit and to make the most of Brexit. It’s not too late to do the right thing and make sure your business is prepared. Call us today to find out how to do just that.