Bristling Brock speaks out...


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Brexit has moved to Davos this week and everyone and his dog seem to be wanting to voice their views on what might be the best way forward in this intractable saga.

Not least is the unsavoury character, George Osborne.  That BB neither likes nor trusts him is probably quite clear, but we'll try and avoid that aspect of discussion.  Mr Osborne believes that an extension to Article 50 is now the most likely outcome for Brexit.  He may well be right as it looks increasingly as though the political faction that wishes to engineer either a minimal or possibly a no-exit Brexit is winning the complex national debate as to what is the best compromise course to pursue by the government.   More time to thrash this tennis match out looks - from the British side of the fence - the way to go in terms of settling the backstop arguments and giving industry a lifeline that it perceives may be necessary to retain investment and jobs in this country.   That particular argument has been fuelled by Dyson and AirBus this week with declarations that British operations will be shifted out of country if no-deal is selected as the option for Brexit. 

And this represents the essential problem of Brexit.   Their is a moral and national imperative to leave the EU, for Britain to drive new international relationships and be governed by its own rules and judicial positions.  There are almost no facts to support this ambition so there is risk involved - for all of us.  The counter argument is that if we 'have to' leave the EU (and that expression engenders the tone of the debate) then we should ensure that we continue to abide by as many EU regulatory and judicial norms as possible.   There are no facts to support this ambition either - so there is risk involved - again, for all of us.  The third strand of this debate is that a no-Brexit outcome will be the best solution - just carry on as before and everybody will be as happy as Larry.  Yet again, BB has heard no facts that support this being the case so we might presume there is some risk in this as well.

So the debate, as things stand, is based upon the weight and force of opinion being used in the argument, the fear of upset to a commercial status quo and perhaps the amount of money being spent on marketing one position or another.  The absence of hard facts for anything underpins just about all of the debate and commentary that is being made, so we are relying on the oratory skills of some, the bias of one media platform against another and the fear tactics of others to understand what is at stake.   Business leaders are employing the fear factor because most of these organisations are now global entities - they are no longer British companies with any loyalty to a sovereign base - and use Britain as a soft stepping-stone to gain access to the EU as a whole.   The nuclear construction debacle with both Toshiba and Hitachi pulling out of projects illustrates that 'business' has no national loyalty or commitment, only shareholder loyalty from global investors.  Their leaders, by default, resist any change that moves them into new and challenging territory on the basis that such positions are mitigating risk to their global funding sources.      

None of this is necessarily the best basis for making a judgement should the extension of Article 50 - and by association, a second referendum - come about.  Risk is one of the elements of life that we all have to weigh up.  It is, nevertheless, a perception rather than a fact.   Look at any business's Risk Register and it is full of 'what if's', perceived probabilities and issues that the business believes it can mitigate.   Few Risk Registers have much in bold Red text that declares there are risks over which the business has no mitigatory control whatever and, therefore, has no solution to avoid.   In short, business and government are risk averse.    The consequences of that may well be an aversion to change, an aversion to explore new and dynamic ways of doing things and a narrow, blinkered vision of the future.  In the Brexit context the arguments for reducing perceived risk are being made by the 'let's stay as close to the EU as possible' opinion makers - and for the moment at least, BB sees them as swaying that opinion.

It is a sad time in our history when our country abrogates its sovereign responsibilities to an inefficient and regressive institution.   BB fears this will be the outcome of Brexit - an almost total surrender to the more invasive influences of those who represent the status quo and vested interest.   There is much to be said about the wider implications of this - but another time.


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