EU REFERENDUM – Is Your Business Ready for the Outcome?

The UK joined the European Economic Community, the forerunner of the EU, on January 1, 1973. In a momentous referendum on 23rd June, the people of Britain could vote to break these ties after 43 years.

That much is beyond dispute. From there it’s all speculation which creates an uneasy situation where conjecture and guesswork prevail.

On one side of the Brexit debate are those who believe that leaving the EU will lead to a collapse in trade, discourage investors and plunge the UK into a period of financial instability and ultimately into recession.

On the other side of the argument are those who say opting out of the EU will give Britain control once again over its finances, stemming the flow of taxpayer funds to other countries, and regaining control of immigration.

Notice how both arguments are largely appealing to our emotions in the light of the absence of any facts! The crystal balls are out in force but all are murky in the extreme.

So what else do we know for sure? Contrary to what the scare-mongers would have us believe, if the outcome is to leave the EU, the country will not be plunged overnight into an economic wasteland. A period of two years has been set during which the UK would negotiate both with the EU and the rest of the world. During that time, existing EU arrangements would continue.

It’s the period beyond those two years that is provoking the greatest uncertainty. Whilst there will undoubtedly be protracted negotiations to strike or maintain Free Trade Agreements with the EU and other states as well as rewriting immigration policies, you have businesses to run!

Whatever your personal views on the forthcoming vote, when you’re in business you can’t look at the issue without considering what impact the outcome will have on you, your company – and on your suppliers and customers.

What measures can you take?

Remember the good old days of the SWOT analysis? Now is the ideal time to dust off that model and ask some fundamental questions, noting your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities or Threats as applicable:

– How much of our business is from EU/Eurozone markets?

– Do we receive EU funding and how would our situation change if that was no longer available?

– How will my supply chain be affected?

– Will a vote for Brexit mean the regulatory framework for my industry will change?

– If my workforce is drawn from or deployed within the EU, what could a ‘leave’ vote mean?

– Will international tariffs and duties change?

– Will we need to re-write contracts with customers and suppliers and if so, have we the time and resources to do so?

– What message should we be sending to our customers?

It could be that we wake on 24th June to a Britain still linked to the EU but time taken now to consider some of these questions will be useful in its own right and may highlight some areas where your company is too dependent or inter-linked with European policy. Surveys indicate that many companies are not addressing such issues – you could put yourself ahead of your competitors with a bit of forward thinking.

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