Brexit and business: fight or flee?

We were delighted to have Andrew Lansley, former Cabinet Member, as a speaker at a recent breakfast event to discuss Brexit and the possible fall out. With the newly newly elected Conservative Government committing to have an in/out referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union, it's been a much debated topic in Europe and was the subject of a recent Interel Breakfast Briefing called ‘Brexit and Business: Fight or Flee?’

So, what did Andrew have to say on the matter? He speculates on the timing of the referendum, as well as what position of businesses should be during the run up to the vote.

1. It’s about the best interests of the business. So, assess where those interests lie. Do be realistic in scenario planning; and then, based on that, decide whether and how strongly to seek to influence the outcome.

2. Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted. Talk to suppliers and customers; seek views in your sector and in other countries. Ask Americans, Australians and Canadians. Where do they think Britain’s interests lie?

3. Elections are political; for businesses largely best avoided. But this Referendum is not an election. It matters to business and the business voice should be heard. And it is not party political.

4. ‘It’s the economy stupid’. The referendum is a democratic instrument; one vote each and businesses don’t get a vote. So, talk to your staff and couch your views in terms of ‘we have a voice and a right to warn too’, not a lecture.

5. Don’t give way to optimism bias. Brexit does not mean you get what you want; it does not mean EU regulations will disappear; it could mean more UK-driven regulation. It can mean serious administrative obstacles to EU – wide business.

6. Don’t be a commitment-phobe. If you are like many, and want to be in a reformed EU, say so. But be prepared to commit, once the shape of the renegotiation and reforms is settled. Then your voice will count, especially locally, so ensure you communicate any corporate view effectively in your operating localities.

7. There is safety in numbers. This is the reason business has trade associations and representative bodies, to go out and pitch for their members. You have the option not to take a public position, but your interests must be protected.

8. This is business, not personal. Staff, even senior people, many have a personal view, but the company must have one view, authorised by the Board and conveyed by the authorised spokespeople. No-one else should be able to comment for, or about, the effect on your company.

9. There can only be two results. There is no grey area. If you want one result, you have to commit to securing it, not relying on someone else or a ‘fudge’. Do not think an ‘Out’ vote leads to a new negotiation and a new vote; it will lead to the door marked ‘exit’.

10. Be prepared. It may come sooner than you think. It is within your planning horizon. Put time now into thinking about the implications and your participation. 

For more information on events held in London, and for the inside track on the UK, visit:

Download the notes here.


Lauren Roden

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