Mon, Oct

Brace, brace, brace

I once vowed that the word ‘Brexit’ would never darken this column, but with a sort of final decision - or final indecision - looming, I’m going to do what politicians do all the time and break a promise.

Whether you’re Leave, Remain, Don’t Know or have stopped caring, it is hard not to conclude that the UK’s departure from the European Union has been so thoroughly, abysmally mismanaged - by politicians of all persuasions - that the Mad Hatter and his tea party guests could have done a better job.

Everyone is to blame: Boris Johnson, the world’s worst Winston Churchill tribute act; Jeremy Corbyn, whose official policy is to respect the result of the referendum and keep the UK in the EU customs union (after he’s done that, he’s doing to focus on something easier, like squaring the circle) and the Remainers who perversely mounted a much more effective campaign after the referendum than they did before it. 

As much as anything, it is this collective incompetence that is souring the mood at many of our customers. Some are bullish, others are bearish and many are metaphorically adopting the brace position, procrastinating when possible, identifying potential cost reductions and seeking constant reassurance about their supply chains. 

One of my customers, a thoughtful Brexiteer, said he didn’t care about immigration, he just wanted the UK to manage itself. One of my elderly clients was more sanguine, saying: “I can’t believe that leaving the EU will make that much difference to us because it didn’t make that much difference when we went in back in 1975.”

Some say this sounds complacent - the global economy being very different to how it was in 1975 - but there is a case for saying that the economic, social and political consequences of Brexit, be they good or bad, will take time to manifest themselves. As Bill Gates said: “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.” 

In the meantime, we - and the companies we provide print services to - have to keep on doing business. As French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery put it: “What saves a man is to take a step, and then another step.”


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