Whatever personal or corporate views are held about the outcome of the referendum, the process now underway will, at the very least, result in a complete reconfiguration of the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union and, perhaps surprisingly, the rest of the world. Little or nothing will be the same again.
Domestic political arguments about the Brexit process and preferred outcomes often obscure the risks – or opportunities – for business from uncertainty, realpolitik, national self-interest and, often most difficult to spot, seemingly incremental changes to public policy. With so much happening at once, the impacts of change will tend to be unpredictable and occasionally disproportionate.
In these circumstances, businesses should be considering how to keep up to date with developments, calibrate impact and, crucially, influence outcomes. A useful mantra to have is ‘what is happening, how does it impact our activities and can we do something about it?’ but, in this complicated and distracting arena, help is often at hand. The key is to know how and when to use it.
There are several rafts of reform heading in the direction of UK business. These include the big one of trade wrapped up the Single Market/Customs Union debate, free movement of people and its relevance to the supply of skills, regulatory frameworks – often sector orientated, role of EU institutions, common policies – most obviously the Common Agricultural Policy, and, just as significant, EU proposals being formulated for implementation beyond Brexit.
Engaging with the Brexit process really matters and it shouldn’t be put in the ‘too hard’ box. What business says and does now will help shape what the future legal and regulatory landscape looks like in the UK for generations to come.