With the dominance of Brexit in the news outlets and particularly following the weekend’s developments in Brussels, it would be easy to believe that little else is happening in the world of business.
Of course, the withdrawal agreement and its terms have quite rightly dominated over the last couple of weeks and as ever, what business needs is certainty and clarity and from the IoD’s perspective, our recent polling of members has indicated that three quarters of our members see it as important that a withdrawal agreement is ratified before the UK leaves the European Union.
Two thirds of those say a ‘no deal’ outcome would be bad for business and over half of these respondents indicated that this scenario would be very negative for their organisations and this is what members are telling me throughout Wales. But, in spite of Brexit, the world of business continues to get on with the job in hand, as do I.
And last week, for example, I had the pleasant opportunity of meeting the Lord Mayor of London, Peter Estlinon his visit to Wales.
His remit is to champion, convene and communicate the opportunities available to work with the City of London to develop partnerships in the FinTech sector and we discussed the massive potential that this sector can offer Wales and the Welsh economy. We will be continuing dialogue and the IoD will play its part in developing such positive outcomes.
I also attended the Armed Forces Awards at The Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagan’s last week and was totally impressed with the recognition of the contribution that the Armed Forces continue to offer Wales and the UK. We too will be signing the Military Covenant at our annual Christmas lunch on the 14th December.
As I’ve said many times and particularly during this uncertain period, business is getting on with getting on. One standout from last week for me was the honesty of Transport for Wales’ open apology for some difficulties they’ve experienced over recent weeks.
It’s just five weeks since Transport for Wales took over our rail network. With trains out of service and passengers facing cancellations, delays and overcrowding, it hasn’t been the easiest of starts for KeolisAmey, the operators of Transport for Wales Rail Services. It’s not what we were expecting from our new operator but neither were we expecting such an open and honest approach when apologising to customers. It’s made a refreshing change and I welcome their warm words.
Years of under investment and an ageing fleet mean that it will be at least a year before Transport for Wales starts to deliver the transformation required with the introduction of new trains and services that will make a really big difference to our daily lives with improved journey times, capacity and frequency. But, change always takes time and we are going to need to be patient during these uncertain times. Rome wasn’t built in a day!
Keolis is the world’s leading light operator and we must remain open-minded to their promises of economic opportunities. Working together with infrastructure giants Amey, this is a joint venture which I am sure will overcome teething problems and bed in to deliver for Wales.
So, in spite of Brexit, like thousands of IoD members and businesses across the UK and Wales, it’s been very much business as usual against the backdrop of Brexit negotiations.
The businesses I speak with will continue to find a way to ‘get on with getting on’ and contributing to benefit the Welsh economy.
Robert Lloyd Griffiths, Director of the Institute of Directors in Wales