16 May, 2022

It’s all about relationships

18 August, 2016

In our May/June edition Editor’s Comment, we considered some of the arguments for the UK leaving or remaining in the EU.

On Thursday 23 June, the Nation spoke and a majority decision was made. With the decision to leave taken but the possibility of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty not being invoked before next year (which will finally see the real process of the UK’s Brexit negotiations with the EU get underway) UK Government and businesses are naturally keen to secure the very best outcome as early as possible.

Josh Hardie, CBI deputy director-general, recently said the Government needs to focus on developing a clear plan and timetable for the negotiations, to provide a measure of certainty for businesses, which are getting on with the job and continuing to invest, as seen from GlaxoSmithKline recently. Hardie added that infrastructure must also feature as part of the Government’s priorities. “Giving the green light to expansion at City Airport – creating jobs and contributing to future economic activity – sends the right signal to investors,” he said. “We must build on that through finally making a decision on airport capacity in the South East. Ultimately, the most important effects of the vote will flow over the medium- to long-term, depending on the change in the UK's terms of trade, regulation and access to skills. As the options for the negotiations take shape, it will be more important than ever for the Government to partner with business in navigating its approach.”

In terms of other nations’ keenness to secure positive ongoing relations with the UK, there has been much to cheer. A long-planned senior delegation from the French Business Confederation MEDEF came to the UK during July for meetings with key political figures and business leaders. MEDEF’s President Pierre Gattaz met with CBI President Paul Drechsler to discuss the future relationship between France and the UK. After the meeting, the Presidents of the CBI and MEDEF stated that the Franco-British relationship is a very strong one. “We stand, more than ever, united alongside one another as we work out what kind of future relationship the UK will have with the rest of the EU,” they said, adding encouragingly: “We will remain close friends and strong allies on many topics, highlighted by the UK and France’s stance together as the two biggest diplomatic and military powers in Europe.”

Other positive news comes in the form of Australia calling for a free trade deal with Britain following its EU exit. The new UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull expressed a strong desire to open up trading between the two countries once the UK ceases to be a member of the EU. Indeed, Mrs May, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox have wasted little time in forging positive channels of dialogue between the UK and countries both inside and outside the EU. For example, the Chancellor’s recent trip to China seemed to bode well from a business and relationship perspective (although the Hinkley Point nuclear power station decision delay seems to have added a degree of uncertainly to the scenario).

There is no doubt that UK Plc harbours some of the finest world-class talent to be found anywhere, which must stand it in good stead to move forward with confidence and conviction post-Brexit. Like a large ship, it may take a while to turn around when it has altered its course; but once it is set on its chosen path little can stop it.

Ed Holden


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