Reading the papers, listening to the radio and watching TV news reports from around the world this morning I feel like I have a hangover not of my own doing. I’m sure many other Australians have the same feeling.
Markets are in flux. The doomsayers are out. There is talk of other countries leaving the EU and even of the UK breaking up as Scotland and Norther Ireland want to remain in the EU.
Captains of industry are warning that Australia’s natural entry point to the EU has gone.
Of course there are those rejoicing, and not just the Brits who voted for Brexit. Donald Trump, who may well be the next US president, has welcomed it. So too have Russian and Chinese commenting on social media platforms. Trump sees it as a sign of democracy in action. If the Brits can exit the EU, America can build its wall along the border with Mexico. Russian and Chinese nationalists see it as an opportunity for the ascendancy of their two countries. Geopolitical maps may well be re-drawn. Early last year I dismissed the 100-year forecasts of geopolitical futurist George Friedman as fanciful – future wars with Russia, China, Mexico and Turkey. I may have to rethink my assessment of his possible future.
But that is going too far for now. Perhaps the same can be said for financial markets and the doomsayer captains of industry.
Nothing is about to change overnight. Britain has two years to extract itself from the European Union. Sufficient time for re-adjustment and to find other possible entry points to the EU market. It is conceivable, for example, that Ireland could become the big winner of the Brexit as an English speaking country that remains a full member of the EU.
What should Australian businesses with interests in the UK and EU do? Keep a watching brief on changing regulations and laws in the UK as it exits the EU. Try to find other points of entry to the bigger EU market – it might be time to start learning French, German or even Polish. And start investigating the laws and regulations of those markets. There are law firms and public affairs agencies that can help with all of this. They have offices in Paris, Berlin and Warsaw.
A fuller description of what’s next for the UK has been written by the public affairs practice of our sister company, Weber Shandwick. They point out that the binary nature of the Brexit will make the details of Britain’s exit the focus of political debate over the next two years. That brief can be read here.
To be sure, the devil is in the detail, as always. But, clearly it’s not the end of the world. It is just another beginning. Stay tuned for updates.
Written by Alistair Nicholas, Executive Vice President – Director, Special Projects at Powell Tate Australia.