Businesses had already been attempting to keep a firm hand on the tiller, sailing against constant waves of uncertainty.
Already reeling from not just Brexit, with a lack of clarity over key issues like the future of workers from the EU — estimated to comprise about one in 20 staff in Scotland, according to one study — there is also the considerable matter of indyref2 as well as forthcoming local elections to potentially destabilise carefully laid-out plans.
The election may provide the kind of clarity the beleaguered business world so keenly wants
And now they face what has been described as a “political curveball” in the form of Theresa May’s yesterday unveiling plans for a general election in June.
As Neil Wilson, senior market analyst at ETX Capital, said: “For investors it adds another layer of complexity to an already-uncertain picture for UK and European assets. Volatility is likely to remain elevated over the coming weeks.”
As many elections in recent memory have demonstrated, accurately predicting which box voters are going to tick when they face the ballot paper is increasingly a fool’s errand. In this case, “there is always the outside risk it could spark a reversal in the entire Brexit process,” Wilson added.
Nonetheless, along with many City commentators, he observed that markets were pricing in improved clarity on the likes of Brexit under an expected greater Conservative majority. This “will help to provide a degree of stability while we negotiate the choppy waters ahead,” said Peter Ashton, MD of Eiger FX.
And the view was voiced that regardless of the outcome of the election, should it go ahead, there should be a drive to ensure that the UK’s exit from Europe is as painless as possible and services business’ interests best. Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, said: “Whoever forms the next government, they should seek to build a partnership [with] business … that is the best in the world, based on trust and shared interest.”
All things considered, question remarks undoubtedly remain – with former pensions minister Sir Steve Webb, now of Royal London, questioning the impact on pensions policy, for example. But with many expecting the election to hit the brakes rather than the accelerator on uncertainty, it may at least provide the kind of clarity the beleaguered business world so keenly wants – and needs.