Back in the early 1990s, when I worked in advertising for national communications agency Golley Slater, one of my key accounts then was the Ebbw Vale Garden Festival, which many people will remember not least for the festival mascot ‘Gryff’ – no relation!
I vividly remember standing at the entrance to the festival site a year before the event was due to open, for the unveiling of a 48-sheet poster sized countdown clock.
So, when I heard the news last week that our new Prime Minister had ordered a Brexit countdown clock to be delivered to number 10 Downing Street to replicate the one that has already been installed at the Conservatives’ Headquarters; I smiled because, if nothing else, it is a constant reminder of what is to come in under 100 days – 87, to be precise! As if any of us needed reminding of what is just around the corner.
A majority of our IoD members continue to think that a no-deal Brexit would be negative for their organisations and whilst the Prime Minister has expressed his government’s intention to get a deal, he is equally adamant that the UK will leave without one if the European Union will not renegotiate.
From our members’ perspective, and I suspect many in the wider business community or certainly the majority of those who I come into contact with, many will be hoping for the best but will inevitably have to accept whatever outcome they are presented with.
So, it is essential that governments at both ends of the M4 do their absolute utmost to communicate to businesses as much as possible what the plans will be in the event of a ‘no-deal’ and, importantly, encourage businesses to put their own plans in place!
The IoD has called for financial assistance for small firms to prepare for new trading arrangements with the EU, either through a voucher scheme similar to the ones which operate in the Netherlands and Ireland (perhaps £2,000 to £3,000 for small firms), or possibly by making certain preparation work tax deductible.
Here in Wales, any such financial support would, of course, be administered by Welsh Government, which is already seeing increased levels of enquiries through the Business Wales Brexit portal and is working with businesses to ensure that preparation work for a no-deal is as high on the business agenda as it can possibly be.
As I’ve said so many times, these are uncertain times, but business just knuckles down and gets on with it. This was particularly evident during my recent visit to the Royal Welsh Show and from speaking with farmers in Wales who have major concerns about a no-deal outcome.
But, even in these times of uncertainty there is good news and we must always seek the positives. I was particularly encouraged by the announcement last week that Legal & General has exchanged contracts to complete the largest privately funded project in Wales, Central Square in Cardiff – a £400m investment!
Legal & General is a business dedicated to driving regional economic growth; in using funds to invest in Wales, creating real jobs and quality varied housing and a better infrastructure. Many other businesses up and down Wales, will be making investments of their own and this will enable us to improve economic performance long after the countdown clock reaches zero.
Those of us who enjoyed the Garden Festival at Ebbw Vale all those years ago will remember that the purpose of garden festivals was to regenerate and renew the locations in which they were based. Regeneration and renewal are what Wales and the UK will need whatever the outcome of Brexit.
The IoD and its members will be playing their part in achieving this important aspiration for Wales and the UK.
Robert Lloyd Griffiths is Director of the Institute of Directors in Wales www.iod.com