The invoking of Article 50 is the official starting pistol for Brexit negotiations. Everything that has gone before has just been a warming up exercise. For business, the stakes are ratcheting up and communications has never been so important and potentially problematic. Every statement, every business decision, every investment will be scrutinised internally and externally. They can directly inform Government decision making and impact share price. Businesses should also be prepared for attacks from the media if their position is contrary to a particular publication’s agenda on Brexit. As we have seen with recent announcements including the PSA purchase of Opel and Vauxhall, a single announcement can have huge implications for the Government plans for the future. The ripples can be felt across sectors and supply chains.
Even an announcement with the most tenuous link to Brexit could fall foul of this new reality, and could make its way into the relevant Minister’s morning clippings. And what business does will be as important as what it says. Ministers may not be placated by positive statements; they will be watching closely to see if there is action behind those words.
For companies that have operations or headquarters abroad it can be even trickier. For instance, is there a risk of saying one thing to a UK audience and another to a German audience? As politicians look to play sectors and companies off each other to gain leverage in negotiations, there needs to be strict message discipline and alignment across markets, while simultaneously being reactive and flexible. Welcome to dichotomy communications.
Below you will find a few questions that businesses will need to consider throughout the period of Brexit negotiations:
- Have you looked ahead to understand whether business and policy changes in the next few years could be seen through a Brexit lens?
- Is the business conducting a policy audit to understand what areas might be impacted by leaving the single market and EU?
- Have you conducted scenario planning to understand what might be removed from UK legislation by the Great Repeal Bill? What are the implications?
- What opportunities does Brexit present?
- Is it really possible to have no established position on Brexit? Have others in the sector said anything?
- Does your UK communications plan align with that of your other markets in the EU?
- Have you identified how many people you employ in the UK? Jobs created? Extent of supply chain? Will the Government approach you to ask for such figures?
- If a non-UK company, is your home Government likely to expect you to make statements that support their position during the negotiations, and will those statements fit with the commercial aims of the business?
These are just some of the considerations businesses will need to look at when navigating Brexit.
Authored by: Douglas McIlroy