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Business owners must show leadership over Brexit - even if Tory leadership hopefuls are not ǀ View

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We all know by now that a lot can happen during a week in politics, and last week was no different. As President Trump enjoyed the full pomp and splendour of a state visit, Theresa May was marking her last remaining days as Conservative Party Leader and her potential successors began vying for the coveted top position.

No longer party leader as of 7 June 2019, May will officially step down as prime minister during the week of 22 July. With the leadership candidates all demonstrating vastly different opinions regarding Brexit, there is still a great deal of uncertainty about how the next few months will play out. So, how should the nation’s business leaders prepare, in order to minimise the impact this will have on their employees and the wider economy?

While so much is up in the air politically, our nation’s business leaders have a chance to show that they at least are capable of leading and remaining consistent with their employees.
Jo Sellick
Managing Director of Sellick Partnership

Firstly, it is important to note that a ‘no-deal Brexit’ is very much still on the table, despite constant warnings about what this would do to the economy. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) even published a fresh warning on 31 May that it would not be a responsible strategy for candidates to pursue. Yet, the likes of Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab continue to talk about this as a viable option if either one of them becomes the next prime minister. Trump’s pledge of allegiance to Johnson during his state visit added further concern that the current favourite to replace May could take a more extreme stance on Brexit than some of his peers.

With this in mind, business leaders would be wise to make preparations for a ‘no-deal Brexit’ in the event of this outcome. If your business trades with the EU, this will mean taking tangible measures to ensure your supply chain is prepared for the UK exiting Europe without a deal at the end of October. Those who employ EU workers must carefully consider whether they will still have a right to work in the EU if we leave without a deal.

Creating a talent pipeline and exploring other avenues, such as temporary workers to plug a gap or training existing employees in other areas, will minimise the likelihood of being understaffed in the event of the worst-case scenario. And even if your business has no direct dealings with EU suppliers or employees, the wider economy would still be affected by a ‘no-deal Brexit.’ Create a plan for how your company would weather the storm if your profits take a hit and confidence plunges.

Another scenario business leaders should consider is that of a general election, which could occur before the end of the year. The recent European elections have shown that there is little-to-no confidence in the Conservatives and Labour among the voting public, with the Green party, Liberal Democrats and Brexit Party all profiting from the failures of their main rivals. These results suggest that, in the event of a general election, the UK would be more divided than ever before, again casting uncertainty over the whole Brexit process. This is the perfect opportunity for opposition parties to show leadership, yet Jeremy Corbyn is still flailing in this regard. I struggle to see how Labour could succeed in another general election under his leadership, given his continued refusal to show clear direction on Brexit. With the Lib Dems also undergoing a leadership contest, perhaps now is the perfect time for Labour to do the same.

While so much is up in the air politically, our nation’s business leaders have a chance to show that they at least are capable of leading and remaining consistent with their employees. Opinion polls show that, while the British public might remain divided in their desired outcome of Brexit, we are united in all wanting to see some sort of end to the farce that has defined the past few years.

The British government has so many other issues it could be dealing with - and it is about time there was certainty one way or another. Business leaders that plug this gap and are transparent with employees about how they will handle the various outcomes of the next six months will fare much better than those who follow the lead of the government in procrastinating or avoiding the issue.

Jo Sellick is the Managing Director of Sellick Partnership, a professional services recruitment agency based in the UK.

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