Keep Calm and Carry On.

by simonrleach

At this point it is immaterial which way I voted in the ‘Brexit’ referendum, and anyway I am not the sort of person that agrees with making such things public. I will also bet that by the time you have read this however you think I may have voted is probably wrong. I am not an EU specialist, I am not a politician and I do not consider myself a member of the media, so why have I moved away from my usual posts about light, craft and rights to look at the topic that seems to be dominating every media feed I am looking at? Well, I have been a sole trader 18 years, I have advised others and have helped guide one or two businesses and had minor dealings with government and I do advise on brand although usually from the perspective of visual assets. So, this is just one man’s opinion, take it or leave it, but perhaps take time to think about the message Britain is sending to the world.

First things first. Can we please stop wasting time on petitions and Facebook posts about a second referendum, dodging the situation or doing a U-turn? The vote has happened, to say you have to try and try again until you get a result you like is not democracy, by definition. Then there is the fact most leaders in the European Parliament do not want us now. Remember the speech Monsieur President made a week last Wednesday? He basically told us then where to go. Saying what he did the day before the vote possibly was not helpful, but he was pretty clear. At the moment you can still go and live somewhere else in the EU and I strongly suspect that situation will not change, at least in the short term. So if you really cannot live anywhere but inside an EU state, there are options. That includes, if you side with the SNP, north of the border.

Which brings me to the brand and where I personally see the whole issue with ‘Brexit’. Exit from the EU was bound to cause jitters in the markets and a reallocation of funds, particularly in the short term. I would guess, and this is completely unsubstantiated, that for a start the EU will want to stop payments to the UK before we stop paying-in, it would be logical on their part. That situation is only likely to be improved by making it in their interest to not hold back in negotiating new deals quickly. So, our brand message needs to be that we are open for business. Since that message is mainly communicated by our elected politicians it would be in all our interests if they stopped bickering, back-stabbing and generally trying to exploit the situation we are all in for petty power games.

We need leadership and we need clear and considered communication of message and brand. Yes Cameron resigning, love him or hate him, leaves a void and void is uncertainty which none of us need right now. But unfortunately that is the way the politics of this country seem to be written. Personally there are few on any side that you can truly believe have the country’s best interests listed above their own. However, in business, if you are handed a decision that you cannot agree with, something your board or shareholders agree but which you cannot back, promote or effectively communicate, then you have to step aside. So whilst it creates a void and I don’t like it, in Mr Cameron’s position I would have done the same thing. What we need those in Westminster to do now is get their house in order fast and be positive about it.

With regard to Scotland, they have a number of things to consider, not least my earlier point about retaking a vote. Second is the deal that might be negotiated to stay within the EU. Although I believe they will be welcome, any organisation, including the EU can only continue to function if all of it’s members put in more than they take out – it is a fundamental. In the meantime political power struggles, rhetoric and uncertainty will contribute further to a message of the UK brand being weak.

Okay, enough bashing of politicians. The media and social media have equally as much of a part to play. I have had enough of the finger-pointing, blaming all the leave votes on racists, the uneducated, the jobless, the rural communities and the more senior in years. You may be angry at those that voted out, but such rhetoric is sensationalist, uninformed and way too simplified. I have been appalled by a country so divided, the message of hatred from fellow citizens that profess to be the ones so accepting of other nations, cultures and opinions. Such sensationalism can only detract from real issues and proper analysis of why the country was divided on the issue. It will certainly not promote our brand as being any more accepting and open than the exit vote itself, in fact, I would go so far as to say it will damage that message more. In the end no one wants their European friends shipped out, no one wants to go to war with Europe and most probably agree with the founding principles of union. I believe that the leave vote arose from considered issues such as, economics, trade, laws, sovereignty, and balance of preference between the union and beyond it.

As a brand then, and a nation, what is our message? I believe there should be positive message, starting with that we stand by our democracy, we uphold the will of the majority and that we stand together in doing so; That we demand professionalism, transparency and clarity from our politicians, that we will not accept their childish games. They are now are on their own, elections just got more interesting! It is time for our politicians to understand there is no hiding place, no excuse of being ‘hand-tied’ by Brussels, no it’s in Europe’s interests, no ‘we tried but we were overruled’. Ladies and gentlemen of the House, you are in charge now and you alone will be held to account come re-election.

Now is the time to focus on the future. We need to realise that this is a serious challenge, not a switch to the newest, funky social media app. We are looking at a transition that will take as much as ten years. Yes we will be out of the union before that, but in terms of fully transforming our business model and being completely settled, it is going to take a while.

Sterling has always been an established currency and we are used to having to trade with exchange rates. The markets will be volatile, but they are already starting to settle. The more we promote a confident brand message, the more investors will gain in confidence and the more stable the markets will become. What we need to prove right now is that we are not running around like headless chickens, but we have direction. Our confidence breeds their confidence.

It’s going to take time and hard work, its going to take confident voices and leadership. It may not be perfect or what you‘d hoped, but we can talk about making our own rules, our own agreements and holding our own political representatives to task. Change is scary and perhaps that is our biggest fear in the end. However, where there is change there is opportunity. Those that make the most of what we have, perfect or not, will likely reap the rewards. European Union countries maybe, and I stress maybe as they have more to loose in balance of trade than us, become more difficult to deal with, but new markets will become more accessible. Perhaps our immigration will become even more diverse and cosmopolitan, one could only hope.

Let us not brand this as the zombie apocalypse and do nothing because if we do then we might find other nations looking at us with sad, sideways glances and mumbling about what might have been.