As the UK stands on the brink of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, there is one thing many can agree on – the lack of information about the impact a ‘no deal’ could have is causing problems. It is impacting the ability of businesses across the board to make contingency plans.
When the deal was first struck, businesses played a key part of the government comms strategy – attempting to activate influential forces to lobby MPs and pass the deal. This strategy failed for a myriad of reasons, in the main the lack of clarity about what a ‘no deal’ would look like. This failed on two fronts: it did not give business enough information to plan and didn’t put sufficient pressure on MPs to fall into line.
This has left the UK’s lawmakers at an impasse. It has left Theresa May’s deal in tatters. With less than three months until Britain is due to leave the EU, the Government has turned its hand to preparing the public for a ‘no deal’ Brexit.
A month on, not much has changed – in the same way that the Leave campaign won by appealing to hearts over minds, passion over logic, impulse over expertise, with a simple emotive message – to ‘Take Back Control’ – the Government’s own guidance continues to be woefully lacking in detail.
This has caused a sense of panic in meeting rooms across Britain and the EU – the prospect of ‘no deal’ is becoming very real. Will orders be stuck at ports? Will quality control be compromised? Will stockpiling cause prices to surge? Should we be hiring more warehouse space? Could this lead to a mass talent drain from the UK?
I’ve spoken with clients in sectors from retail and hospitality to healthcare and technology who share this view. A common theme is also prevailing – beyond the obvious commercial challenges, a ‘no deal’ Brexit poses massive reputation-impacting challenges, many of which fall to communications teams to unpick.
The re-routing of imports/exports to and from the UK is creating huge communication challenges. While Government is saying publicly that contingency plans are in place, the ambiguity in their guidance is a cause of serious concern for business leaders and is likely to put significant strain on businesses who trade cross-border, as well as their supply chains.
This vast expanse of grey space between the information businesses need to risk-plan effectively and what Government has offered is causing serious issues. Businesses cannot rely on vague principles or loose wording. Businesses require detail to deliver. And so far, despite the Government’s rhetoric, that detail on what will happen in the event of a ‘no deal’ is severely lacking.
So what can businesses do? Firstly, they need to put in place a considered and robust communications strategy for colleagues, customers, shareholders and other key stakeholders and ensure they are being proactive in communicating how any disruption could impact them.
In the absence of certainty about what the next 3 months will bring, logic may not be the sexiest of communications strategies but it’s the only one that will get businesses ready for Brexit.