The government doesn’t seem to know what it’s doing. That’s more a statement of fact than a criticism, because as far as the business community is concerned, there’s very little evidence that ministers have a definite plan for how UK plc is going to succeed post-Brexit.
That view came across loud and clear during a meeting that we hosted last week at the Port of Liverpool with Carolyn Fairbairn, the Director General of the CBI, and leading companies. Maybe the plan exists and we just don’t what it is; or maybe there is no plan.
Either way, it leaves business leaders in an unenviable position. We all need clarity and certainty – so notable by their current absence - to prepare for the future and support economic growth. After all, it’s not the public sector that will create the trade, jobs and wealth for our continued national prosperity.
The challenge was brilliantly illustrated when yesterday’s delegates were asked if they could be ready for March 2019. Their collective answer was: what exactly are we getting ready for?
So, if the government is unable – or unwilling – to set out what it is going to do, when it will do it and what this will mean for the rest of us, what are companies supposed to do in the meantime?
Obviously, contingency planning is important, but in these exceptional times, minor variations on the business-as-usual approach aren’t going to be nearly enough.
This week we’ve already highlighted how cargo owners and their supply chain providers should look at two alternatives to traditional cross-channel roll-on, roll-off ferry traffic across the Dover Straits. The first is to use other ports (and our modelling suggests this could actually be financially a better option for many) and the second is to use unaccompanied trailers. Both options could be used together, providing ever greater gains and – crucially – resilience.
This is only one example that shows we should seriously question current practices and orthodox thinking.
Maybe it will take for us to reach crisis point before the business community collectively really starts to look at more creative options and genuine collaboration. On the other hand, we could start now to put our shared talents to work and devise better future-proofing, before it’s too late to react to the vagaries of political horse-trading.
None of this is to let the government off the hook though. We still need to see a meaningful international trade strategy, clarity on post-Brexit red-tape, tarriffs and regulations, improvements in the workforce skills and availability, and investment in transport infrastructure.
We also want to see some stability. 8 trade ministers in 8 years is far too many, especially for a government that seems to have pinned its hopes for post-Brexit economic success on increased trade across the globe.
As businesses, we can’t control any of that. But we can work with each other and open our minds to genuine innovation that will improve our odds of success whatever falls out of negotiations with the EU. That much is in our hands. Find out how we can help you with the challenges you face with Brexit and read our free white paper here.
Blog by Julia Bradley, Sales and Marketing Director
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