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Letter from London: Brexit and Counting

13 March 2017, www.marketingsociety.com

Letter from London: Brexit and Counting

By Stuart Pocock


By the time you read this, Article 50 may well have been triggered and we are starting to have some clarity on what Brexit is going to mean for the UK.

Whilst the former may be true – I suspect the latter will not. Formally triggering Brexit will have little immediate effect (except perhaps further nervousness with Sterling), but will merely mark the start of what will be a very long period of negotiations and further uncertainty for UK citizens and businesses – so, in reality, more of what we’ve experienced since the morning of Friday 24th June.

In the interim period, not a lot seems to have changed for the man in the street. Sure, petrol prices have climbed (but we’re used to that), and a beer on the Costa del Sol is a bit more expensive. So, all that post referendum angst has proven unnecessary.

For the ‘outers’, there’s still the irritant of ex-Prime Ministers continuing to talk the talk of the doomed. Many of the ‘ins’, on the other hand, see their concern as a reason for everyone to stop and re-think before it’s all too late.

For the vast majority of the Communications Industry however, the effect to date has been pretty negligible – especially if an Agency is focused on UK business only. in a recent article on Brexit in Campaign Magazine, whilst there was the inevitable split of opinion, the industry, in the main, remained upbeat.

But that, in many respects is the nature of this industry. What it fails to take into account are the realities that will face their Clients.

Some of them already are facing those issues – especially the pain of a weak Sterling. Pressure on third parties to keep supplier/producer prices suppressed won’t last forever, nor will consumer confidence once prices start to nudge up.

And a combination of the Media’s blow by blow reporting of the extraction process, combined with the inevitable knee-jerking of the City and Markets will do little to clarify business planning.

We are familiar with the increasing degrees of short-termism within the communications business – it has become the norm in recent years rather than the exception, demonstrated by the increased trend to commission project based work rather than retained. And that certainly will be a continuing scenario when the need to react swiftly to maintain market advantage in fluctuating circumstances is paramount.

In reality, the triggering of Article 50, which will have all the expected associated fanfare of positivity and negativity surrounding it is likely, in the short term, to see the maintenance of Brexit inertia. However, what it will do is summon that first big climb up that steep ramp to the beginning of the roller coaster ride that will follow, and run and run. Probably not great for those who don’t enjoy an adrenalin rush.

So, in the words of another ex-Prime Minister, come the triggering, ’now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning’.

I wonder what he would have made of all of this?


Stuart Pocock  is a Founder and Managing Partner at The Observatory International, London.


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