Reading The Brexit Tea Leaves
The debate on Brexit has been going round and round in circles for months, with Tory leadership candidates, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, taking public positions that they know full well are unrealistic and not achievable. This is my take on where we find ourselves here in the UK, and what I think is the most likely outcome.
Conventional wisdom says that no-deal is becoming more likely. But I disagree. Nothing in politics is inevitable, even if they seem so. With the exception of the hard line Brexiteers, there’s no appetite in Parliament or indeed in the country for no-deal.
Every day, it becomes more obvious that Brexit is impossible to deliver in a way that does not inflict great, unnecessary harm. Most politicians understand this but are reluctant to say so, playing for time. A handful of very senior Conservative politicians have however indicated that they are willing to take action to prevent a no-deal.
Ken Clarke, the former chancellor, told the Observer recently that he would rather vote on a confidence motion to terminate his own government than allow a crash-out Brexit. Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, says the same. While former Prime Minister John Major has threatened to personally bring legal action if there is an attempt to prorogue Parliament in the autumn, with Philip Hammond potentially endorsing this.
Despite Corbyn’s best endeavours, Labour will continue inching its way towards Remain. Not least because it would be political suicide to go into a general election with its current ambiguous position - as the recent Bridlington North by-election result portends. (In a stunning by-election victory, the Lib Dems took Bridlington North with a 43% swing; the Conservative share of the vote fell by 44% while the Labour vote fell by 24%).
Assuming Boris Johnson becomes our next Prime Minister, he will almost certainly attempt to apply a smoke and mirrors approach to the question of the backstop and tweak the Withdrawal Agreement to try to squeeze a revised deal through in October. It’s possible, but unlikely this will work. In the event this doesn’t work, which is my personal prediction, another extension of Article 50 is likely, which the EU will link to either a general election or second referendum.
It’s hard to see how it’s in the interests of either the Conservatives or Labour to opt for an early general election. The polling is dreadful for both parties and they can expect to be clobbered by the electorate for their respective roles in this shambles. The more likely way to solve the Brexit logjam is a People’s Vote. Speaking on the The Week in Westminster on Radio 4, Timothy Hill, Theresa May's former chief of staff, Brexiteer and architect of the Tories' general election manifesto, was the latest person to express this view.
Meanwhile the People’s Vote campaign is growing in momentum. The petition to revoke Article 50 has broken records again - by becoming the largest in history to be presented to parliament. It has almost 6.1 million signatures - nearly 13% of the electorate - with still a month to go until the official deadline. The People’s Vote campaign is going on the offensive, with rallies planned in 15 towns and cities across the country, culminating with an enormous, historic march in London on October 12.
I’m going to nail my flag to the mast and predict that there will be a second referendum - and that Great Britain will decide to remain in the EU. This is my reading of the Brexit tea leaves.
But how does this help me when it comes to future proofing my own business in the runup to Brexit and when giving advice to my business consulting clients?
One of the tools I use to help me to understand the world in which we’re operating our businesses is the PESTLE Analysis. Read my article How A PESTLE Analysis Will Help Your Business to find out more about how this tool can help you with your business strategy.
I then do what’s called scenario (or contingency) planning. Scenario planning is where you consider the different ways in which a situation or decision could play out, and then develop a plan with sufficient flexibility to deal with any of these different scenarios, should they occur.
OVER TO YOU
Do you agree with my reading of the Brexit tea leaves? Or do you disagree with my take? What contingency plans are you making? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
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