Fundamentally, life goes on

Despite uncertainty after the Brexit decision, the economy keeps on going, consumers are still spending and the UK will find a way to adapt, says Glen Dimplex Consumer Appliances chief executive Andy Griffiths

The referendum result of June 23 sent shockwaves around the world. No wonder it is taking time to settle and understandably, uncertainty and hesitant concern are rife among consumers.

Is that really the case? Our new PM Theresa May has announced the timetable for invoking Article 50 by March 2017. Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall in those negotiating rooms as a new deal is thrashed out over the two years that follow?

They say people have short memories and, with only a few months since the vote and its truly democratic mandate (like it or loath it), people are impatient for news. Rather like many of the voters on the day, they could be comforted by stepping back a little and taking a look at the big picture.

In the short term, the economic news has been encouraging, with the good ship UK steaming on through placid waters. Perhaps this is further proof that nothing has really changed yet. From a business and public sentiment point of view, this is impressive. The new leadership in government must now prepare for Brexit and the detail will be crucial. Remember, no one really expected this result and there really was no preparation in Whitehall for it. The resulting scramble must be frantic and time is short.

Focused

One can argue that the issues are clear and primarily focused on the single market and immigration. From a business perspective, there is a real need for common sense and mutually beneficial compromise. Yes, the UK would suffer from “hard” Brexit WTO [World Trade Organisation] type tariffs and restrictions. Equally, Europe would suffer major economic disruption if the UK were lost as a major market. Who would suffer more? It looks like the remaining EU countries overall, although some sectors differ. So pragmatism will surely win the day, as politicians seek to keep the wheels turning.

EU nerves will be tested further by crucial general elections taking place next spring/summer in both France and Germany – the big two that really matter. Angela Merkel is already more sympathetic to the UK and keeping those wheels on, while France will likely see the return of Sarkozy, who is more right-wing and business-centric. Maybe things will swing our way, and if there is a swing to give us want we want on immigration from the newly-elected governments in these countries, a deal could be in sight. This presumes a rational progression.

The problem, as we know, is that with 27 countries having to vote for the approval of our new deal, the irrational can easily interfere. Maybe that’s part of why we voted to leave?

So, it’s the biggest structural change in 50 years and yet the economy keeps going, people keep buying and some of the markets are showing reasonable performances across the electricals product categories.

Is this because, fundamentally, life goes on, customers keep living their lives and we as an industry keep tempting them? Is business more important than politics and policies and will British society adapt and find a new way to live and prosper?

I suspect so.