Business did not want Brexit. There will be a sense of shock in Britain’s boardrooms now that it has become reality, writes Anton Colella
Yet business must respect it is the democratic will of the British people to leave the European Union, even if it was by the smallest of margins.
What we need urgently is for the UK Government to bring clarity to key questions for business which were never answered during the campaign. This may help reduce uncertainty and will help business leaders respond with plans for the future which lay out how best to proceed for the good of British jobs, businesses and the economy.
Now that the votes are counted we need clarity over what happens next.
To help bring this clarity, ICAS has issued “Twenty Questions” we believe the government needs to address. These include – what immediate measures will they take to help business through this period of transition? How will the transition process work in practice? When and how will we negotiate new trade agreements with Europe and other countries around the world?
Which EU regulations and legislation will the government change in the first instance? How do we intend to tackle migration in a way which doesn’t turn off the tap of European talent which is so essential to so many of our businesses? What now for the constitutional future of Scotland within the UK? How will we minimise capital flight? How will the government support businesses and workers if they find their futures in doubt as Brexit is implemented?
All these areas and many more need as much clarity brought to them in as short a time as possible to help business plan ahead.
This in itself will minimise any short-term damage to the economy and protect jobs.
Britain’s exit from Europe may also create a chain reaction over time which leads to other European countries withdrawing and the break up of the EU.
We need to all strap ourselves in for the coming months. This may be a very rocky road.
Arguably, it could be the most uncertain period for the UK economy since the aftermath of the Second World War and certainly since the global financial crisis.
Of course, there will be opportunities and if the arguments of those who campaigned to leave are borne out we may emerge into a sunnier upland of economic prosperity.
Leadership and moral courage of the highest standing will be required from our politicians and our business leaders. The stakes are high for the prosperity of every man, woman and child in our country.
• Anton Colella is chief executive of ICAS