Brexit – 12 immediate actions for PR, corporate communications and public affairs professionals

The UK has voted to leave the European Union. This has already sent shockwaves through global financial markets which will massively impact businesses and organisations.

However, as the dust settles on this bombshell it will become clearer what the direct impact of Brexit will be on businesses and organisations.

Public relations, corporate communications, public affairs and corporate affairs professionals will have an essential role in helping employers and clients to navigate this period of momentous change. We are change agents and are desperately need to forge the new relationships we need and the old ones that need to be maintained.

The timescale for leaving looks to be slightly longer than expected as the Prime Minister has suggested that Article 50 will only be invoked when a new prime minister is in place before the Conservative Party conference which starts on October 2. Once article 50 is triggered there is a two-year period in which existing treaties will need to be unpicked and renegotiated. Therefore the UK will likely leave the EU in October 2018. It is possible for the remaining members to grant an extension, but given it will probably be an acrimonious divorce this is unlikely.

The EU Council of Ministers meets next week on Tuesday June 28 and Wednesday June 29 where the process and timescale should become clearer. There is a possibility that the council will force the UK to trigger article 50 immediately which would bring the timescale forward by three to four months.

However, there will likely be informal negotiations and discussions while the Conservative leadership election is happening over the summer.

In general terms these are some of the immediate actions you need to take:

  1. Understand that the only immediate thing we have to fear is fear itself. Fear creates an immediate risk bringing uncertainty and instability.
  2. Reassure customers, employees, suppliers and other stakeholders.
  3. Establish an internal management working group supported by the appropriate professional advisers as required.
  4. Audit your workforce to identify EU citizens and provide them with extra reassurance.
  5. Identify how much business you do directly with EU countries – both what you sell and what you buy.
  6. Identify countries that you trade with that already have trade agreements with the EU as these will end.
  7. Speak to your industry sector bodies and work with them to understand the implications and advocate for your sector.
  8. Identify which aspects of UK legislation affect your business and work out if you want to keep them, reform them or get rid of them.
  9. Research what new legislation that Brexit politicians might want to introduce when they are no longer constrained by EU rules and regulations.
  10. Think about future staffing challenges if you can no longer recruit EU citizens.
  11. Do you do business with Scotland as a second independence referendum is highly likely (although not in the near future), which is likely to have a different result.
  12. If new trade agreements are not negotiated your business will be subject to WTO tariffs so identify what these will be.

This isn’t meant to be a definitive list as the impact on different companies and organisations and sectors will be very different.

Failure to address these issues puts your business or organisation at risk and could even precipitate a crisis.

If you need more practical advice on how to reduce the risk and protect your business or organisation then please get in touch as together with my legal, financial and management consultancy colleagues I can provide you with the assistance you need.

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