On Friday 24 June whilst most in the UK slept, blissfully unaware of the maelstrom they would awake to, here in New Zealand we could watch the whole thing unravel in painful real-time.
It is fair to say Brexit has been a huge shock to us all. On Friday 24 June whilst most in the UK slept, blissfully unaware of the maelstrom they would awake to, here in New Zealand we could watch the whole thing unravel in painful real-time. As a Brit I was flabbergasted by a result which ultimately resonated of disenfranchised voters who have felt for a long time that their voices were falling on deaf ears. The short-term fall out has been colossal; with reports suggesting uncertainty has caused two trillion dollars being wiped off global markets, massive currency devaluation, global organisations threating to relocate, and the Prime Minister’s resignation to name but a few immediate outcomes.
It has cast a divide between the older and younger generations in my fair nation. The youthful voice criticising the grey voters for spurning their future opportunities. All the while failing to recognise the hypocrisy of this considering the voter turnout from younger demographics was estimated at less than 40%. It begs the question if it was important enough to share on social media post-results, why wasn’t it important enough to act on at the time?
While I fall into a similar younger demographic and voted Remain, I do agree with some of the Leave arguments, and frankly don’t believe it is all doom and gloom. For those outside looking in, it is very easy to identify from a purely London-centric view. Of course it favours London, the service industry powerhouse, to stay in the EU; but in the regions this becomes trickier. As a person who calls rural Britain home I can tell you with no uncertainty that the view on the EU from the vast majority is not a positive one. Hearing regular internationalist messages of change and investment from the government, when there is the view of a failure to spend proportionally in support of local businesses/economies, is not exactly heartening to those regionally. One of the resulting positives for many coming out of this is that London was finally put in its place about its spoilt child status.
And similarly there is widespread sentiment in the UK that the EU as it stands is not fairly operated. It dramatically favours those who share the single currency, and the majority vote system simply doesn’t reflect the needs and wants of all nations. In the beginnings of the Union, way before my birth, the aspirations were pure and far less convoluted. A continental free trade network strengthening its members through relaxed trade laws and invisible borders. Sounds great. Now however, with more and more members joining, we see a highly regulated, self-governing body with no actionable, fair mechanism with which to challenge the authority. London bows to demands from our EU brethren while the rest of the country looks on in wonder, or so it seems. However from my view are we better to have a place in that oligarchical system for better or worse – to contribute and have our say alongside long-time allies. Is this immediate leap really the time to dramatically push for change? The whole situation feels like something posed in abstract in an Orwell novel.
I hope that the EU recognises this as a call to action. A significant member has voted to leave because of lack of acceptance to change, and that is off the back of will of the people. Regardless of how you want to split the numbers and the demographics, or examine the pre campaign rhetoric. If it had been a marginal swing the other way we would still have the same conundrum; why do half the population of one of the most influential member states want out? Down the line I can see other members starting to question their place and would hope that this will affect real change from within. Would I like it if these changes would keep Britain within the bloc, however unlikely? Certainly. As Aristotle said ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
So how will this affect the professional services industry going forward? Well uncertainty over the next two years is likely going to lead to a small exodus of workers, as you would expect. Particularly amongst the younger people, who are less tied-down. The inevitable rise of red tape, legal complexities and job ambiguity will leave many questioning their futures. Whilst many consider their options outside of the EU, now is a great opportunity to inherit a few individuals with transferable skills and expertise. I am sure I am not the first to recognise this and first movers in HR are likely to reap the talented rewards. Why do I know this…well I am a real example of a very recent skilled immigrant. While I like to claim that I ‘Brexited before it was cool’, quite honestly my personal departure was inspired by new experiences and alternative options, rather than a change in environmental circumstance. The topic of immigration has in fact become my biggest bug-bear throughout this saga. However that is another story, and if you want to know more from me on this one you would have to read my second article 'Immigration Issues'.
It’s a troubling, uncertain, and yet exciting time. Apprehension can be well understood during such a monumental change in sentiment which presents an acid test for not only our trading influence on the globe and political discourse, but also immigration and our sovereignty. We wait in anxious hope. Rule Britannia and all that.