Regardless of whether we personally favoured “remain” or “leave”, many of us will have felt a sense of shock as we woke up to the news on 24th June. The enormity of the decision only struck home to many on that morning, all the more so as it was largely unexpected. Most pollsters, most commentators and even the bookmakers were all predicting a remain vote.
As always when faced with something unexpected, the markets reacted badly, with both the stock markets and pound tumbling in the immediate aftermath. It’s understandable that many businesses are feeling concern over the future, especially as so many uncertainties remain. When will we trigger Article 50 and start the formal process of leaving the EU? How long will the exit negotiations take, and what form will Britain’s future relationship with Europe take? Will restrictions to freedom of movement in Europe impact on the current skills shortages in construction and other industries?
There’s bound to be some short term volatility over the coming months, but it’s worth remembering that Britain remains in the EU for at least the next two years, and probably longer. Even more than that, the fundamentals of the UK economy are unchanged. We still have a housing shortage, and leaving the EU doesn’t change that, so in the long term the prospects for housebuilders remain strong.
Our country’s need for major infrastructure upgrades is still critical, suggesting continued opportunities for the construction industry. And likely cuts to interest rates in the near future could lead to lower financing costs for businesses as well as lower mortgage payments – and increased spending power – for consumers. It seems likely that further cuts to corporation tax will be on the way as well, freeing up cash for investment in many businesses.
So now is not the time for kneejerk reactions. Cool heads are needed, both in business and government, while we as a country plan for the future.
Let’s be optimistic; with the right decisions and the right deal with the EU, it’s entirely possible that the UK could end up with substantial access to the Single Market, a reduction in red-tape, as well as the freedom to strike trade deals with the rest of the world. It’s all to play for in the exit negotiations. British business needs to make sure that its voice is heard in those negotiations.
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