We don’t talk about… Brexit

By Sabine Tyldesley

Are people still ‘encanto’ed with Brexit? Certainly people don’t talk about it as much as they used to, but there remain practical challenges faced by business and consumers that means two years on, Brexit is still on the agenda, whether people want it to be or not.

In the aforementioned Disney film, Bruno is initially a “harbinger of doom”, which draws a parallel to 2016, with Remainers being accused of amplifying  “project fear” by those supporting Leave. But – not wanting to labour the comparison too much [Spoiler alert], Government is keen to apply a gift of foresight to see what may be gained from Brexit.

On the second anniversary of the UK’s exit from the EU, the Government published a paper titled The Benefits of Brexit: how the UK is taking advantage of leaving the EU. With the ‘partygate’ scandal dominating the news for weeks, you will be forgiven for missing the publication, and with Brexit having been ‘done’, you may also be asking why we’re still talking about it.

But as unsexy as regulation may be, it can have a significant impact on people’s lives and sometimes the smallest things can be the most striking (remember the headlines on banana shape regulations?) and whether you believe Brexit was a precursor for deregulation, or that our “new freedoms” can help “to transform the UK into the best regulated economy in the world” , the direction of travel towards divergence is clear.

The Brexit Benefits paper (1) proposes some key reforms and (2) sets out a vision for the future. In particular, the government highlights financial services and fintech, automotive, digital, green energy, and the creative industries as sectors where the UK can lead the world, and should therefore ensure the regulation can keep pace. The reforms proposed are aimed at adapting quickly to changing trends and markets – including adopting new technologies, advancement of robotics and AI, space, cyberspace, emerging technologies and data; an agility which whilst still inside the EU would have been more difficult.

The ‘Vision’ section leans into this quite heavily. For those who’ve been watching for a while, it’s been clear that this government sees international trade as a means to unlock opportunities for growth at a more local level, particularly for SMEs.

This aim is supported by the strong indication running throughout the document that the government needs, and more importantly wants, to engage with business (in this case, the regulated) to help shape the new regulatory regime, not just at the outset, but through regular reviews.

The paper specifically mentions being competitive on a global scale and expressed the ambition to be an international standards setter, specifically on climate and agriculture.  This chimes with the Government’s broader ‘Global Britain’ agenda, which places increased importance on the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s diplomatic strength and the and the Department for International Trade’s focus on supporting British business and encouraging investment into the UK through trade and other multilateral agreements. The government also proposes opportunities for the use of technology and data in trade as well as a more global approach to regulations on flagship industries and goods such as financial and legal services, food and drink and cultural exports.

Making this vision a reality will require businesses to explain what is needed from government to remove barriers to success. But while the collaboration being promoted between business and government is to be welcomed, it’s clear that government is also relying on industries to do the heavy lifting themselves.

So, if you missed the 105 page document drop, and after the second anniversary there are still things on your post Brexit wishlist, now is the time to engage and maximise the opportunities that divergence could bring. While your colleagues won’t thank you for singing the extremely catchy, and now EU-themed, tune: “Don’t talk about Brexit, no! (Why did I talk about Brexit?) Not a word about Brexit…I never should’ve brought up Brexit!”, we are more than happy to carry on talking about Brexit so get in touch.