Brexit – Nobody Knows

With all the noise around Brexit, ‘people’s votes’, possible leadership challenges and endless posturing and speculation on mainstream and social media, it is time for businesses large and small to stand back and take stock of reality.

Here are the facts:

Nobody knows how Brexit will pan out or even if it will happen at all

Although there is no shortage of consultants, political commentators and so-called experts who are happy to voice their opinions, nobody knows what the outcome of Brexit negotiations will be, what the deal will look like (if any) and even whether Brexit will happen at all.

As Donald Rumsfeld would put it, here are the ‘Known Knowns’: 

  • ‘Brexit Day’ is on Friday 29 March 2019.
  • If a ‘withdrawal agreement’ has been signed off and the necessary legislation passed by the UK parliament before Brexit Day, a transition period will be entered into during which time the exact nature of the future relationship between the UK and the EU will be agreed.
  • A ‘transition period’ until 31st December 2020 has already been agreed, assuming that a withdrawal agreement has been signed off before Brexit Day.
  • During the transition period, the UK and the EU effectively operate as they do now. The UK has agreed to abide by EU rules and court judgements and to allow free movement of EU goods and citizens.
  • The only material difference during the transition period is that the UK won’t have a say in any EU legislation or regulation.
  • While the UK can negotiate trade deals with other countries during the transition period, these cannot come into effect until 1st Jan 2021 (or later if the transition period is extended).
  • No withdrawal agreement before Brexit Day = ‘No Deal’ Brexit and World Trading Organisation rules apply after 29th March.
  • Any kind of withdrawal agreement = effectively no change until at least 31st December 2020. 

Houses of ParliamentWho can affect the Brexit decision itself or the final Brexit deal

If you belong to one of these groups, you may have some influence:

  1. Members of the House of Commons or the House of Lords
  2. Members of the European Commission
  3. Members of the UK and EU negotiating teams, including ministers, civil servants and special advisors.
  4. Large corporates who have teams lobbying on both sides.

If you don’t fall into one of the above categories, you’ll have to live with whatever deal (if any) is negotiated.

What should businesses do?

If you aren’t in a position to affect the outcome, stop whining about the possible consequences of ‘no deal’, hard, soft or no Brexit at all and focus on your business.

Those who waste time wondering about the future, delay decisions on investment and hiring and put off looking for growth opportunities will be falling behind their smarter competitors – in the UK, the EU and the wider world.


Our Brexit Manifesto for Business

To borrow a sporting cliché, it’s time to ‘control the controllables‘.

Invest in and focus on areas that will improve your business, irrespective of what happens with the UK’s relationship with the EU.

This will be time and money well spent and will leave your business in the best possible shape to thrive whatever the economic conditions in 2019 and beyond.

Here is our 5 point Brexit manifesto for UK Business:

1 – Assess the risk

While there is no point worrying about the elements that are out of your control, that’s not to say that you should ignore risk.  

Simply assess it and plan for it. 

If you have critical suppliers in the EU that your business depends on, time to seek out alternatives in the UK and/or outside the EU. Reviewing your supply chain should already be a regular exercise, so Brexit doesn’t mean more work – and you might find some cost savings. 

If you export goods into EU markets, are there alternative markets outside the EU that you can target? Again, this should be a standard business development exercise, so Brexit doesn’t add any overhead.

If your business isn’t importing or exporting to the EU, check if your key customers and suppliers are and what the impact of Brexit might be on them. Diversify if required.

If your business is reliant on cheap labour from EU countries, examine how your jobs could be made more attractive to people in the UK or other non-EU countries. If your business model is wholly dependant on minimum wage labour, review your business model.

If you have operations in EU countries, make sure they are structured in ways that you can easily separate from UK group activities. Prepare to divest if necessary.

2 – Invest in Technology and Automation

Whatever sector your business is in, automating processes – whether physical manufacturing or back office systems and procedures – makes you more efficient and more competitive.

Whether it means purchasing robots or retooling factories or investing in better communications systems or speeding up transaction processing or updating your marketing software, this kind of investment pays dividends whatever happens with Brexit.

If you expect more admin and paperwork post-Brexit, sort your document management systems and automate your workflows now. Secure storage, efficient taxonomies, digital signing and good archiving and data management practices are good for business whatever the economic climate. 

Putting off investing in technology just means you fall further behind your competitors – wherever they are located.

3 – Invest in People

Every company says their people are their greatest asset, so why not invest in them?

Train and reskill, add more skilled professionals, hire people with new language skills to support your expansion into non-EU markets (Mandarin, Hindi, Arabic, Japanese, Spanish, Swahili, etc.).

If Brexit means a tightening of the labour market in the UK, you’ll want to be an employer of choice in your sector.

  • Review your compensation and benefits packages.
  • Are you a family-friendly employer?
  • Do you allow flexible working?
  • How about sabbaticals?
  • Job-Sharing?
  • Is your culture diverse and inclusive?
  • What’s your gender pay gap like?

Is your workplace designed for modern office working? Ergonomic seating, sit/stand desks, large screens, break out areas, video conferencing etc.

Investing in people means greater retention rates, more engaged and more productive employees and a more attractive proposition for incoming talent.

Again, more investment that pays dividends whatever happens with Brexit.

4 – Trim the Fat

Every business has lots of areas where savings can be made – seek these out and destroy them and your business will be leaner (and more profitable) whatever the outcome of Brexit negotiations.

Check energy tariffs, mobile and fixed telephone rates, broadband and leased line charges, IT support costs, payroll processing, print and consumables costs, expenses and travel, software licenses and subscriptions, finance costs, building costs and space utilisation.

From an IT viewpoint, make sure you are making best use of your existing assets. If you have Microsoft Office 365 subscriptions, are you using all the available features?

Are you using SharePoint? Bookings? Word and Outlook Templates? Automated Workflows? Planner? Teams? Video? OneNote? Sway? Yammer?

If not, why not? You’re already paying for some great productivity tools, why not use them?

Business overheads and expenses should be under constant review anyway, but this is a good opportunity to make sure you are running a tight ship – and you will see the bottom line benefits whatever happens in the future.

5 – Seek out New Opportunities

Actively look for new revenue opportunities – new markets, new products or services, JV opportunities in the UK and overseas. Are you maximising the use of your data and digital assets?

If you need investment, now is a great time to take advantage of historic low interest rates from traditional lenders. Alternatively, there are any number of angel investors or crowdfunding opportunities.

There are more ways to generate revenue today ever before – get creative and generate some ideas for additional revenue streams for your organisation.

The UK is the fifth largest economy in the world.

GDP for the EU minus the UK is around $15T. According to World Bank figures, GDP for the entire world is approx $80T.

Even if a portion of the UK’s trade with the EU is reduced post-Brexit, there is plenty of business to be done elsewhere.

Change always brings opportunity – if you look for it.

Summing Up

Brexit may or may not happen. If it does, chances are your business won’t have any say in what sort of deal (if any) is agreed.

Life and commerce will go on whatever happens, so make sure your business is in the best possible shape to thrive in whatever trading environment or economic situation we find ourselves in.

Direct your investment of time and money to those areas that will improve the business irrespective of what happens with the UK’s trading relationship with the EU.

Delaying decisions or holding off investment that you know will make your business better makes no sense and will leave your business more exposed to smarter competitors whatever the economic conditions in 2019 and beyond.

Lean, agile businesses will prosper in times of disruption and change – make sure yours is one of them!


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About Trade IT

Trade IT is all about using technology to improve your business processes. This might mean new kit, the latest app or software package – but more often than not it is about organising your business processes to optimal efficiency and empowering your staff with the right skills and tools be more productive.

The technology available to even the smallest organisations today is incredible – but few companies are taking advantage.

If you want to find out more about how you could improve your business processes and make everyone more productive without working any harder, fill in the email request form and we’ll get right back to you.

In these days of information overload and with so much written material to get through – whether books, blogs, training materials or Brexit documents – being able to read and comprehend volumes of material quickly is a great skill to develop.

Speed Reading with the Right Brain: Learn to Read Ideas Instead of Just Words by David Butler is a different take on the normal speed reading training books with a focus on understanding and retaining ideas and concepts so you not only get through reading material more quickly, but more importantly your comprehension and retention of the material is improved. Butler’s book gets great reviews and we’re sure many of our MPs must have this on their Kindles. How else would they have mastered the 585-page draft agreement on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union so quickly?