I generally feel that forewarned is forearmed and try to plan ahead wherever possible, as do most business people who I come into contact with. Therefore, like many of those I speak to who have acknowledged the potential of the country’s ‘no deal’ stance; I am becoming increasingly frustrated by the government’s reticence to speed up publication of what its ‘no deal’ will actually mean. An IoD survey of 800 business leaders reveals that less than a third have conducted any Brexit contingency planning, because we remain in the dark on how to go about it and the full implications of the exit and want to avoid re-writing policies and strategies at some later date. Nobody wants to be a busy fool – this is not conducive to any type of progress in business.
Half of the businesses surveyed - many of them small businesses, like the majority of businesses here in Wales - say they can’t afford the time or money to be re-drafting plans without firm proposals in place.
In almost a Rumsfeldian twist, a fifth of companies are planning on planning, as it were, but the vast majority of those say they are waiting for more clarity about the future UK-EU relationship first – which makes perfect sense to me. Our members across Wales are asking, ‘Are we going to be part of a withdrawal agreement or a new deal with the EU?’ Confusion seems to reign supreme.
As the highly regarded ‘voice of business’, we in the IoD are doing our best to plug the information gap, but the reality is that many companies feel they can only make decisions and definite changes when they fully understand what it is that they are having to adjust to. After all, this is what business does.
Of course, I understand that the Government must prepare for all eventualities, and the complexity of the current situation is apparent to all of us, but ministers must step up to the plate and provide sound advice on preparing for such a ‘no deal’ outcome if indeed that is where we are heading.
Historically in Wales we are adept at evolving, adapting and keeping our businesses agile in order to stay afloat or to progress, but with no detail to hand, it is near on impossible to plan as long as no-deal remains a possibility.
Full negotiations on the future relationship can only begin once we have left the EU, so both sides must ensure a proper implementation period once a new agreement has been outlined. This would give an idea as to what would happen following the conclusion of any other trade deal.
We in the IoD are chomping at the bit for some form of guidance to work with and will be on hand to advise and to help or support the redirection and reshaping of our members’ business models accordingly. Whatever the outcome of negotiations, one thing that I believe for certain is that business will find a way, but it is much easier to find a way with focus, vision, and detail and this, I’m afraid, is in short supply at the moment. Let’s hope that over the next few weeks we can move forward with a greater degree of clarity and understanding for all concerned, than the current situation.
Robert Lloyd Griffiths
Director. Institute of Directors in Wales.