Don’t feel you have to ‘Shut Up’ about Brexit

Business leaders could be forgiven for parking their interest in the UK re-negotiations this week. First it was widely reported that Cameron and his advisers wanted them to ‘shut up’ about Brexit. Then a political stand-off between the Prime Minister and Eurosceptic backbenchers on the fine print of the ‘purdah period’ looked more like political point scoring than economic strategy.

But really the next three months are the most critical period in the run up to the referendum for UK plc to be proactively talking to government. Politics aside, this is when the Chancellor and the Prime Minister will be leading intensive talks with European political and business leaders about what a reformed Europe could look like.

Business leaders don’t need strong views on whether the UK should Brexit or not to make a valuable contribution to these talks. In our experience No10 and lead Ministers like Sajid Javid and Baroness Neville-Rolfe are encouraging them to do just that, especially for the UK’s lead sectors like financial services and digital.

Ironically the lack of detail about what negotiation ‘success’ looks like for the Prime Minister opens up a bigger opportunity to put some colour into those success factors.

We’ve heard talk of the broad themes; securing more trade outside the EU (but not ‘an ever closer Union’), deregulation and enhancing competitiveness but little on specifics. But behind the scenes lie a host of critical EU reviews, draft directives and European Parliament opinions that might be a concern to UK businesses, or that they might want to see moving along more quickly.

Whilst they have the attention of the such senior government ministers, businesses should take the opportunity to spell out their T&Cs for supporting renegotiation.

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