Brexit largely irrelevant for major multinationals

It’s hardly surprising that, as someone who spends their professional life helping organizations think internationally and breaking local silos and parochial thinking, and as someone who runs an international business based from the UK, I voted to remain.

However that’s democracy and those of us in business who pay for everything will have to find a way to succeed despite the new headwinds, and whilst the UK politicians take the summer off, delay critical decisions and look selfishly to their careers. (You can tell I am not a fan)

Despite all the hyperbole and downright lies of the campaigns on both sides, things will not be as bad as we fear right now or as good as some hoped. Change in this area will come but not faster than our ability to respond.

For multinationals, administration costs and complexity will increase but we will continue to run integrated European and Global businesses because we see the unarguable business logic of thinking outside the silos and sharing resources, innovation and talent. Unfortunately for the UK, fewer of our people and less of the power in the future will be in the UK, but fundamentally it doesn’t matter to us whether our people are in the UK or another country. If the UK becomes more difficult we will invest somewhere else.

The big battlegrounds in this area now will be in free movement of labour and access to the single market. Already the Brexiteers are stepping back from their promises and saying they never wanted to stop movement of labour just “control” it. It’s clear that the EU will not allow access to the market without freedom of movement so expect a couple of years of damaging uncertainty (if you were a talented expat would you accept a move to the UK right now? Should I invest in the UK not knowing what the rules will be?) Followed by a classic political fudge where everyone claims success and free movement of labour is retained.

Life in the silo that is the UK, however, may become more difficult with pressures on currencies, interest rates, investment and business confidence in the short to medium term. I hope we find a way through it, but as a global organization we have many more options.

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