It’s strange how we experience the passage of time differently in certain situations.
For some of us, this week will pass quite quickly, as we cram in as much as we can before the Christmas break begins in earnest on Monday. For others, it could feel as though it’s going slowly, as we look towards next week’s festivities with anticipation.
Regardless of whether this week will drag or not, as sure as eggs is eggs, Christmas week will be over and done with like a flash, and before you know it you’ll be sitting back at your desk on 2 January, several pounds heavier around the middle, several hundred pounds lighter in the wallet contemplating just how on earth you’re going to get through the next 29 days. Something that is particularly true if you’ve decided on doing dry January or Veganuary this coming year!
Because January is a month that tends to pass very, very slowly for many of us. It’s a typically miserable month where the joys of Christmas seem like a distant memory – a depressing thought if ever there was one, but only slightly less depressing perhaps than the state of Brexit.
A similarly perplexing temporal experience as the period between Christmas and January, the process of actually leaving the EU over the course of the last 30 months has felt simultaneously like the building of La Sagrada Familia in slow-motion and a three-legged sack race against Usain Bolt.
Whilst progress against the government’s projected timeline has been painfully slow, the weeks and months seem to have passed by in an instant, and there are now less than 100 days until the UK leaves the EU.
For businesses, these next 100 days will fly by. With no assurances from government and still none the wiser as to the eventual shape of a Brexit deal, business is straining every sinew to ensure that they are prepared for Brexit day on 29 March 2019.
The next 100 days will be a torrid time as far as our region’s businesses are concerned. When they should be spending their precious time investing, innovating or finding new markets, businesses will be required to commit significant resources toward preparing for Brexit.
That being so, you cannot help but think that the last 30 months has been time wasted as far as the economy is concerned. Preoccupied with Brexit, government could’ve achieved so much more during this timeframe when it comes to fixing the fundamentals and laying the foundations for economic growth at home.
Instead, time has been frittered away on political games rather than getting on with the job of securing our nation’s future.
It is deeply regrettable that after all this we find ourselves at an impasse with government and Parliament at loggerheads – a situation that is unlikely to be resolved by the meaningful vote that was delayed by Theresa May.
For business, watching all this from the sidelines, the events of recent weeks have been difficult to say the least.
The announcement of the withdrawal bill back in November seemed to offer the certainty that business had been asking for, only for their hopes to be dashed once it became clear that May would face an uphill struggle to get her deal through Parliament. Now government is on the brink and May’s deal is dead in the water, so what’s next?
In the current climate, it is difficult to look too far ahead with any certainty as it would appear that every option - even a second referendum – remains on the table. Alas, I’ll try it anyway!
In the unlikely event the deal in its current state goes through on 14 January, it is then full-steam ahead to the withdrawal date of 29 March. At which point we can begin to start negotiating a trade deal with the EU.
If on the other hand May can secure some concessions from the EU between now and 14 January, then her deal might have an easier passage through Parliament, however, it would appear that European leaders are standing firm for now.
If after the vote on 14 January Mrs May decides to run down the clock in the hope that MPs will panic and rush through the deal in its current state, expect a rocky few months ahead for the UK economy as a result of the prolonged uncertainty.
Expect more uncertainty too if the European Union agrees to extend Article 50 for whatever reason. This is a not an unforeseeable outcome that could add another 12 months onto what will have already been a 2-year ordeal by that point!
There’s also an outside chance of a second referendum, a general election or pulling the plug on Brexit completely, but don’t hold your breath.
With all these scenarios potentially in the offing over the next 100 days, businesses might be tempted to stick their heads in the sand and see what happens in April as the task of preparing for every eventuality is just too daunting to comprehend.
To that I would say this: every business is able to make preparations to ensure a baseline level of business continuity and it’s never too late to start thinking ahead.
Think about your customers, your supply chain and your workforce and try to mitigate risks wherever it is possible to do so. There is no one size fits all approach to preparing for Brexit, but please don’t panic.
Put a realistic plan in place today that enables you to keep on trading regardless of the shenanigans in Brussels or in Westminster and you’ll be able to approach 2019 with optimism. Leave your Brexit preparations until the last minute and you’ll find that the first 3 months of 2019 will be a bit of a whirlwind!
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