If you think it’s been political, the year’s not over yet. We’re set for a General Election before the end of the year – most likely, we heard from Michael Gove, in the first week of December.

07.10.19
by James Harding
Co-founder, Tortoise

Irish politics looks set to determine the fate of Boris Johnson’s Brexit proposal. Leo Varadkar and his Fine Gael colleagues cannot be seen to go soft on the British, making it hard to see Irish agreement on the customs checkpoints or rolling Northern Ireland consent on the arrangement.

What then? No one really knows. There’s never been quite so much uncertainty. Will there be a deal? Will the Government respect the Benn Act and send a letter seeking an extension? A letter will be sent. From whom? Saying what? If an extension is secured, what deal then? If an election is called, who wins? And once Brexit is “done”, the uncertainty is not over then. There are years of detailed issues to resolve in negotiations. Scotland’s independence movement will be reshaped by leaving the EU, but certainly not dimmed.

In the short-term, Brexit preparations really are underway. Big companies have had three years to put in place their contingency plans. As Simon Wolfson explained, the pressing practical issue is the ports, particularly triage points for lorries leaving the UK and needing to get their paperwork in order before they reach the dockside. Patience Wheatcroft thought chaos much more likely. We’re already seeing disruption to the supply of medicine and healthcare products. Manufacturing and food retail are bound to be impacted.

Looking ahead, Stuart Rose wishes for a Government that champions business, not one that’s overtly hostile or grudging. There are question marks that hang over certain industries, such as financial services. The economy is spluttering and consumer confidence is shaky. And for business to rebound in the decade after Brexit, there’s much that needs to be done: wholesale investment in infrastructure, liberation of the planning process to build houses and a fundamental reform of education to equip people in the UK to compete in the technology age. That investment in people – even more than the terms of Brexit – will determine the fortunes of business in Britain.