by communications firm PLMR’s Brexit Unit
To judge by a lot of media coverage about Brexit, you could be forgiven for thinking that all important decisions rest with Jean-Claude Junker. Rather than seeing the European Commission as an almighty entity, one could see it as a kind of political secretariat (albeit a powerful one) for the interests of the Continent’s national leaders; for the political interests of Chancellor Merkel and President Macron in particular. But there is another powerful voice that has been curiously absent from the Brexit debate: the voice of businesses, large and small, from across the European mainland.
European firms have no real interest in seeing a punitive, anti-trade settlement after Brexit. Any marginal market share benefits they may receive from anti-UK protectionism would be more than offset by the broader economic problems that such a settlement would cause. Businesses are not interested in political pride or point-scoring – they are interested in certainty, simplicity, sensible regulation and the removal of barriers to trade and commerce.
British businesses have been very vocal about their interests in this process. Governments must listen to businesses but not be led by the nose. Business lobbying is not always in the broader national interest as the 2008 financial crisis showed, and politicians must listen foremost to their electorates. But it helps to also let companies have a say on the stewardship of the economy. UK firms have had their say and now it is time for European firms to stand up for a fair Brexit settlement.
EU companies will want a pragmatic deal. They will still want to access London’s financial markets and to sell goods and services to our 60 million-strong population, and they will want to be able to do business with our companies as they always have. Making these points to the Commission, but especially also to their national governments, should help avert a punitive deal.
Businesses know that there is no point ruminating on past decisions or seeking to undermine the result of the 2016 referendum. They want a deal that benefits both sides because they know that trade is not a zero-sum game. Let us encourage European companies to find their voice and to make their points forcefully to their representatives.
PLMR’s Brexit Unit advises organisations on managing the transition to a post-EU framework in the UK. Consultants Joe Mitton and Simon Darby are on hand to field queries – for more information visit www.brexitunit.co.uk