Over the last few months there were numerous promises and indeed a number of patronising statements made by people arguing for us to leave the EU, ridiculing the idea that our access to European markets would be ended just because we voted to leave. The business I am part of is aware of various discussions taking place on mainland Europe regarding how to respond to the Brexit vote, held by companies we buy products from. They are certainly not suggesting that we will lose access to their products, but the suggestion that our access will be more costly is becoming a consistent element of the outcome of these conversations. All of these companies manufacture products that are high specification and not easily sourced elsewhere. Every additional Euro on our buy price will translate into diminished profit for us, or increased prices for our clients, and so far we have not even left the European Union. One of our key market sectors is education, where we supply and fit equipment for preschools, schools, colleges and universities. Todays news from the Guardian is not a good sign for us, any more than it is for them. According to the paper, “in a confidential survey of the UK’s Russell Group universities, the researchers found cases of British academics being asked to leave EU-funded projects or to step down from leadership roles because they are considered a financial liability. The backlash against UK researchers began immediately after the June referendum when the failure to plan for a post-Brexit Britain cast serious doubts over the chances of British organisations winning future EU funding. British researchers receive about £1bn a year from EU finding programmes such as Horizon 2020, but access to the money must be completely renegotiated under Brexit.” Challenges faced by our most substantial customers may well translate into fewer business opportunities for us. We risk being squeezed from both sides of the equation.
Clearly the situation could change once we do get a plan regarding our Brexit and how we will respond to this situation. Of course there may be more benefits to the decision to leave than there are challenges. We cannot turn the clock back, but we do need to translate the many pre-Brexit ‘promises’ and aspirations that the Leave campaign spoke about into reality. It is disturbing that large numbers of the people who spoke on behalf of Leave are either absent from our broadcasts and newspapers or who appear to be focused on other matters as if our departure is settled.