Brexit: Keep Calm and Carry On

The longer Brexit, and the impending doom it will apparently drag in its wake dominates the headlines, the more I find myself wondering: is it really relevant? There’s a tendency among the press – on every part of the political spectrum – to blame Brexit for just about everything. Taking a glance at the papers this week, you would be forgiven for believing Brexit is all that anyone cared about, and is the only significant factor at play in the whole of the UK and Europe. Increasingly, however, I think Brexit is just a political sideshow to the less headline-worthy forces that are driving fundamental, irrefutable change.

Take car manufacturing, currently a great success story for the UK. For a start, thanks must be given to Ratan Tata and an Indian appetite for risk, which is pretty far removed from anything Brexit or even EU related. But aside from this, the wind of change is certainly blowing through this industry. BMW, JLR and Tesla are all focusing their efforts ever more on electric cars, while Toyota, who has never built an all-electric car, is now heading for hydrogen. This is not a Brexit-inspired change. It was in 1925 that the founder of Toyota dreamed of freeing Japan from its dependence on imported oil by using hydroelectric power, decades before the European Union even came into being. It is perhaps more to do with a dwindling supply of hydro-carbons and a wish not to joke ourselves that we press ahead with this new technology, which will bring profound and lasting change the car manufacturing industry, and little more than coincidence that it is happening just as the UK drifts away from its neighbours on the continent.

Another story that has cropped up recently is Lloyd’s of London’s decision to establish their European base in Brussels. Surely motivated by Brexit, I hear you say! The press certainly thinks so, but in light of another, less prominent article about Lloyd’s, I would disagree. Here, they acknowledge that dramatic change, a euphemism for drastic improvements in productivity, is needed if they are to remain competitive. Likely this will involve a wholesale adoption of new technology. Meanwhile, Lloyds recognise that to underwrite large risks, and there are many large risks in Europe, you need to be able to meet and deal face to face, and to look the other party squarely in the eye. Again, it appears, Brexit is coincidental and is not driving change.

It’s safe to say, we will not be seeing an end to Brexit related news anytime soon. While it is easy to get swept up in the drama of the divorce, it is now down to the politicians and the civil servants to get it done. For us laymen, it’s a compelling sideshow. If we are to keep our chins up and our powder dry during this uncertain time, we would do well to remember that Brexit is not the only force at play. It’s just one more opportunity in a world of change, so let’s keep calm and carry on.

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