Britain voted to leave the EU, but for now the country hangs in limbo. The atmosphere of uncertainty is particularly pronounced among the business community, which overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU. For many, their fears are already being realised as markets hit turbulence, the value of sterling fluctuates, and the future of trade deals and immigration policy remains unclear. From the British Retail Consortium to the National Farmers’ Union, the message is clear: British business needs certainty and stability in order to survive and thrive.
The precarious nature of the pound is already being felt by the UK’s small businesses. “On the one hand, the devaluation of sterling makes operations in our engineering office in London cheaper compared with our international revenues,” explains Joshua March, co-founder and chief executive of software company Conversocial. “However, it also decreases the value of all our major UK clients. It balances out in a way, but it is worrying that we are unable to estimate our expenses and revenue due to the huge variations in value.”
To make themselves less vulnerable to the whims of the market and future negotiations with the EU, come companies are preparing to take drastic measures. The investment bank Goldman Sachs and the advertising agency WPP both explained that their companies would likely need to cut jobs or move them abroad as a direct result of the Brexit vote.
However, in general, holding off on rash decisions seems to be the order of the day. Businesses should stay calm, review their contingency plans and start considering the mid- to long-term opportunities. Organisations need to assess the risks to their business and develop strategies that mitigate them.
Difficulties acquiring top talent post-Brexit is a major concern in the tech industry as access to skilled tech talent was often cited as a key benefit of staying in the EU. If the flow of top talent dries up, there’s a danger that the UK could lose its crown as the unofficial startup capital of Europe. Having said this, to look beyond the instability and take a positive view, Brexit might push businesses to think more radically and innovate to compete in the international market. Turmoil can often bring opportunity. If a skills-based system were to be introduced and the government made it easier to hire talent from anywhere in the world (not just Europe), it would be a huge advantage for the national talent pool.