The Brexit Dilemma

Boris Johnson’s road to Brexit speech titled “A United Kingdom” called for campaigners on both sides to unite and make the best of it.  Mr. Johnson insists that leaving the EU will be a good thing for Britain, whilst at the same time acknowledging that there is considerable ambivalence surrounding Brexit.  Mr. Johnson stated that Brexit will enable Britain to re-connect with its global identity from which will flow energy that presumably Mr. Johns envisages will deliver global trade thereby removing the need to strike embarrassingly servile deals with the EU.  In contrast Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, feels that “the UK will face unavoidable barriers to trade (presumably with Europe) if it leaves the customs union and single market”

Mr. Johnson’s strongly held view is that Britain must take back control from the EU and that any close alignment with Brussels post-Brexit would not amount to taking back control.  His assertion is that the referendum vote hinged on the question of British control – over borders, law, self government etc. and was the main issue that resulted in the Brexit decision.  Mr. Johnson’s high profile speech will pile more pressure on the Prime Minister who has the unenviable task of attempting to appease all the various factions in her Cabinet.

It is difficult to see how Boris Johnson’s version of a complete break with Europe to the degree of walking away without a trade deal if necessary and refusing to be bound by EU laws will square with any attempt to trade with Europe in the future which will inevitably require compliance with European regulation.  There are as many European companies as there are British companies keen to maintain trading links and keep the businesses afloat that they have spent years building up.  However, unless there is a sudden political accord amongst all parties to the negotiations, businesses will have to do their best to find a way to keep trading by themselves.  Mrs. May is making precious little headway and Michel Barnier seems to be set on an aggressive stance which is causing alarm in both Whitehall and Brussels as the tactic seems to be falling on stony ground leading the EU to conclude that it may have a negative effect. 

The diametrically opposed attitudes within British political parties and government does not suggest that there will be a resolution that is satisfactory to all.  In the meantime businesses from the top to the bottom of the spectrum are having to try and second guess the best way to prepare for commercial life after Brexit with very little reliable information other than things will be difficult.  Not the least of the difficulties arises because it poses an immense bureaucratic burden for Britian to implement all the changes necessary within the time scale to facilitate trade with Europe once there is clear direction as to the route that Britain will take, this leaves many question marks hanging in the air, for example,   the Government has yet to set out in detail what type of immigration model it wants to set up outside the EU, when it will no longer be bound by freedom of movement rules from Brussels.  This will be a key factor for British companies seeking to retain and recruit talent from within the EU.

Mr. Johnson’s speech has had a mixed reception, as he doubtless expected.

For information about how businesses can prepare for Brexit please email or telephone 020 7183 9482