As events in Westminster continue to dominate the headlines, a growing sense of Brexit fatigue is creeping across the nation. It’s vital, however, that this fatigue does not turn into complacency for businesses in the Square Mile and beyond.
In order to avoid a nasty Halloween shock, City firms need to intensify their preparations as the unsettling prospect of a no-deal looms on 31 October. The time to act is now.
Recent research from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) showed that more than two-fifths of UK businesses have not done a Brexit risk assessment.
This is an improvement on the corresponding figure last year, but it is still concerning that such a significant number of firms are yet to take into account how the UK leaving the EU will impact their operations.
While large City firms have been planning on a worst-case scenario since the 2016 referendum, questions remain about smaller companies that perhaps do not have the resources or capacity to have such stringent plans ready. It’s important to remember, after all, that 99% of the near 24,000 businesses in the Square Mile are SMEs with 1,000 new start-ups launching each year.
There are a number of practical steps that businesses can take to prepare for 31 October, with the government and the likes of the BCC, CBI and the Federation of Small Businesses offering useful advice.
Of course, the current political turbulence is making it difficult to plan for the future. The City of London Corporation has been urging politicians on all sides to put businesses and households on both sides of the Channel first by agreeing a pragmatic solution to Brexit and making a deal.
Sustained uncertainty is leaving business with its hands tied, reluctant to make everyday decisions on recruitment, expansion, and investment. And day by day, as uncertainty persists, so does the threat of more businesses moving jobs and operations away from the UK. This should be a wake-up call for Westminster to break the deadlock.
The current political uncertainty is no excuse, however, for businesses to fail to prepare prudently for the risk of a no-deal Brexit. In fact, the reverse is true.
City firms should take time now to prepare for the risk of the UK leaving without a deal in order to ensure they are able to seize the exciting opportunities on the horizon.
London’s fundamental strengths mean that the Square Mile has a bright future ahead of it despite the short-term turbulence.
Our unique combination of time zone, language, legal system, global talent, and financial ecosystem is not one that can be easily replicated – especially when combined with Capital’s cultural offer, heritage and open spaces that makes it such an attractive home for people from all over the globe.
We are already leading the world when it comes to innovative growth areas such as fintech, cybersecurity and green finance.
The long-term prospects for the City and London after Brexit are positive but businesses need to be prepared for whatever path we eventually head down on 31 October.