After what everyone seems to be referring to as the ‘shock referendum’, quite frankly no one seems to be able to predict with confidence what is in store for Britain outside of Europe. The pound plummeted, then it rose; our European neighbours responded angrily, and financial markets outside of Europe suggested they would open their doors to a Britain outside the EU; strong campaigners of the Leave vote were juggled in and out of cabinet positions like a circus act; and still no one can say if and when Article 51 will be invoked.
All we can safely say is that business, economics, and politics have all been completely thrown off course, while the global impact of Brexit plays out, and the leaders of our little Island work out the exit strategy. It is clear that uncertainty is the only certainty.
As the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, will deliver his State of the Union address at the European Parliament today, he will address the achievements of the past year as well as what is ahead for 2017, and this will be followed by a debate. In light of this, there will be a lot of heightened debates both at home and in the work place over what conclusions the President's summary will draw.
What is in store for Great Britain outside of the EU?
We thought it only right to draw our own expert opinion in, so we spoke to keynote speaker Kevin Gaskell, former MD for BMW, Porsche and Lamborghini and a global leader and business expert, about the opportunities that leaving Europe could produce. Although the country is divided into a dreary landscape of remainers devastated by an unexpected result and leavers keen to see what Brexit will truly mean, Kevin shares some insight into this turbulent time, highlighting that, perhaps, some exciting opportunities lie ahead. As a business authority, he is keen to illustrate how Brexit means positive adaptation.
Europe is not a unitary continent. It is a complex union where countries have chosen the arrangement that gives them as much inclusion as they desire while sacrificing autonomy to a level they can justify. Europe’s leaders though, have pushed further and faster than many citizens are willing to go. The backlash is visible and noisy with ‘democratic deficit’ - a vocal accusation of many who would previously support EU association.
Was I surprised by the vote for Brexit? Yes, I was. Did I vote out? Yes, I did. I am a businessman, and I have spent 30 years building highly successful companies capable of operating with agility and focus. My role as a leader is to change my company for the better, to achieve growth and sustainability for my shareholders. The EU as it stands does not support that objective. It is an institution lacking clear leadership and purpose which has proven incapable of reforming to meet the demographic, economic and technological challenges of our changing world. It needs to adapt. I voted to see adaption.
Can we meet the demands of the modern world without the EU?
Where do we go from here? We stay calm and treat the negotiation as part of a business strategy. Negative noises are noted from France, Germany, Italy - and the USA - but it is probable that the leaders of each of those nations will have changed before the 2-year negotiation period is completed. The UK must negotiate with a long-term perspective on preferential access to the EU market. Since European businesses want to trade with the UK, this can be achieved. Compromise will be essential on both sides. Emotion must not rule. It will not be easy, but adaption, focus and improvement rarely is.
Challenging and unforgiving markets are a constant reality. The EU negotiation is one more challenge. Capable leaders do not fear turbulence. Extraordinary opportunities are available to agile companies which can meet the needs of the reformed environment. The best leaders will use the opportunity to change the terms of the debate – from resistance to performance, from apprehension to excitement.
With the terms of leaving Europe not yet decided, it does seem possible that Britain can still trade with Europe, albeit it under different terms, as long as negotiations are made without emotion and our leaders making the decisions embrace risk and temporary turmoil. Kevin highlights to us how the landscape is not as bleak as originally predicted; that we should see this time of turbulence as a time to be agile; and that businesses, the economy and politicians should seize a once in a lifetime opportunity with both hands to make the most of it.
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