The UK has formally left the EU.
It has been like drawing teeth reaching this point. A fed up nation arrived at the point that many if not most British just wanted in or out but not the destructive and wasteful Mr. In-Between. The relatively low key commemoration of Brexit, in this respect, is appropriate as it reflects the terrible behaviour of the House of Commons but also respects the fact that 48% of the country’s population voted to Remain.
The paralysis of the House of Commons, particularly in CY2019, was a disgrace. Some may argue that Westminster was reflecting the narrowness of the EU vote and that it was totally appropriate for those against leaving the EU to use all the tools at their disposal to do so.
Whilst so, and they did, those folks, euphemistically calling for the People’s Vote, were also anti-democratic, revisionist and at times, guilty of incredible arrogance; old and poor people voted to Leave because they were too thick to know anything different.
A new politics
The General Election put paid to The People’s Vote and the revisionists at Change UK and the like. It has also caused an existential debate within a massacred and out-of-touch Labour Party whilst the demonstrably non-democratic and lunatic Liberals fell-over.
Whilst the Tories succeeded in England and Wales, to their glee, it should not be forgotten that the Scottish Nationalists excelled through the first past the post system whilst the Irish Nationalists and Republicans also did well; the DUP somewhat humbled.
“The paralysis of the House of Commons……..was a disgrace”
Time for some grace
The new Parliament is now charged with taking the UK out of the EU. After a period of bitterness, disagreement and rancour, that led to damaging political dysfunctionality, particularly for business and the consumer economy, it is now the time for calm, grace, respect and the art of mutual kindness.
Our future relations with not just the EU but every nation, from a trade perspective, cannot be set within the context of ‘win’ and ‘lose’. The UK needs an appropriate trade agreement with the EU and vice versa. There will be disagreement but proportionate, reasonable and fair outcomes need to prevail to permit economic growth. Will this be the outcome? Time will tell.
Can green shoots grow?
Ahead of the noise to come…, grace was not evident from the Irish Taoiseach’s threat to the City of London if the UK prohibits EU fishing boats from our waters, the British economy is showing some green shoots of increased activity following the December General Election. Data-points include the Services PMI survey, which notably beat forecasts (the UK is an 85% service economy) and the GfK NOP consumer confidence data that has risen from minus 14 in November to minus 9 in January.
Whilst encouraging, it remains early days in the Johnson regime. The March 11th Budget will be an important event to underscore or otherwise the scope for an improvement in supply side policies to help modernise, grow and rebalance the British economy. There is current hope that the policies announced will help to contribute to a step ahead in both business and consumer confidence, which will make a difference to activity and growth, including the food industry. Again, though, time will tell.
“In a still subdued UK retail grocery market……. cost structures, tight working capital and broader cash management are also likely to remain key priorities”
Ahead of all this, I sense that business will be thinking about how their products meet evolving food markets, particularly around the well-being and sustainability agendas. In a still subdued UK retail grocery market, where well-being and sustainability mean less volume, cost structures, tight working capital and broader cash management are also likely to remain key priorities; it feels, in the main, too early for many to be opening the cheque book to major expansion.
In these business management respects, Coriolis has a skill set that focuses upon culture, process and practice that I think is relevant to the current trading environment facing the majority of the British food system. With good policy-making, at home and with the EU in the first instances, and maybe ongoing improvements in confidence, Coriolis can also contribute to more growth strategies to come. We live in hope.
Dr Clive Black
Advisor, Coriolis Consulting