Theresa May's Brexit business councils should have been created before the referendum. Why are they happening now?
So far this week, two different manufacturers have announced plans to close UK operations, both citing Brexit. On the day the councils were unveiled to the public, ITV boss Carolyn McCall said her company was struggling due to sliding advertising revenues – caused by Brexit uncertainty
Great news for anyone concerned about how Brexit is going to affect the UK economy – Theresa May has created some new advisory councils, full of business leaders ready and willing to provide tips on how to make leaving the EU into a huge success.
Those councils met with the prime minister for the first time on Wednesday. Yes, that’s right, this Wednesday, in November, the month by which a Brexit deal was originally meant to be in place. It’s not, of course, because nobody can agree on what the Irish border backstop should look like, or even on what a backstop actually is.
Never fear though, because Brexit, after all, “presents a huge opportunity to build a better, stronger economy”, according to May.
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That’s why she’s invited 10 company bosses to help run five separate councils, right in the midst of attempting to nudge negotiations along.
So now, while trying to sort out those pesky Brexit discussions, the government will also be consulting with five different groups of business representatives, each lobbying for a different sector. It’ll be fine though, the talks have been going so well thus far, adding some more voices into the mix shouldn’t create any problems.
Except that all these groups have already signalled that they face potentially chaotic levels of disruption when Brexit occurs.
Manufacturers, and particularly carmakers, have warned en masse that a no-deal Brexit would be catastrophic for industry in the UK, and many companies have already begun taking measures to prepare for a pretty dire outcome: Jaguar Land Rover has put workers at its Castle Bromwich plant on a three-day week until Christmas, and recently announced a two-week shutdown at its Solihull plant, while a planned shutdown at the BMW factory where the Mini is built has been brought forward to the day the UK leaves the EU in order to minimise disruption.
Meanwhile, on the day the councils were unveiled to the public, ITV boss Carolyn McCall, co-chair of one of those very groups, said her company was struggling due to sliding advertising revenues – caused by Brexit uncertainty.
It doesn’t bode very well for the new advisory councils – before businesses can start imparting their wisdom as to how to make Brexit a huge success, surely they’ll be looking for ways to make it at least not a disaster, so the quality of advice the government stands to receive is questionable.
If you were thinking that they’d left it a bit late to start asking these people for advice, you’d be totally right. It is much too late, and it’s not the fault of the businesses. Companies and trade bodies have been clamouring for more detail on Brexit for months, and begging the government to take their views on board.
These consultations with businesses should have been happening before the referendum, the concerns of company leaders taken into account when planning for the potential outcome of a Leave vote.
It’s frankly baffling that these new advisory boards have been announced at a time when the messages on Brexit seem to be changing with every hour that passes. Then again, maybe it’s not so confusing. For a few hours, at least, the headlines about Brexit were slanted towards the fact that industry heavyweights would be sharing their ideas with politicians, helping to set up a bright new future outside the EU.
It’s almost as if the government is trying to distract us all from the fact that they really haven’t got a handle on Brexit at all.
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