April Update

A Message From Duncan Edwards, CEO

How I wish that I could start this April newsletter on any other subject than Brexit…stupidly, I had thought that, nearly three years after the referendum, the UK and the EU would have been able to find a way of executing on the result without inflicting unnecessary damage on either of the two economies. I assumed it would go down to the wire…but at the time of writing, a week into the first extension, and with talk of further extensions ‘til July or a year-long ‘flextension’, the outcome is as unclear as it has ever been.

Following the debates in detail, as we have at BAB, I do not subscribe to the simplistic view that members of the UK Parliament are incompetent clowns who are only playing political games; this is the easy shorthand too often used by commentators and repeated in media. The reality is that the issues being debated are fundamental to the principles of government; the nation state or supranationalism, free trade or protected markets, representative or direct democracy; and the views expressed are held honestly and viscerally. It is perfectly possible for decent and intelligent people to hold different opinions on these critical issues.

So, where do we stand today? The BAB position remains that we support the Withdrawal Agreement and we have not given up hope that, even now, this may pass the House. If not, while the legal default position remains that the UK will leave the EU on April 12th, a further extension seems likely to be approved by the EU, but absent a change in the EU’s position on the Backstop, or a change to the parliamentary arithmetic (or leadership), it’s not clear how a delay helps to solve the problem.

Clearly a long delay does nothing to help the issue of ‘certainty’ that business leaders say is the one thing that they want and whether this endless uncertainty, persisting for multiple years, is necessarily better for the UK economy, taken as a whole, than the impact of leaving without a deal, should be the subject of serious and objective debate.

At BAB we are busier than ever with our mission to connect businesses through our convening power, to facilitate and celebrate trade and investment between the UK and the US and to make sure the concerns of business are heard by both governments. Our upcoming programming includes The Transatlantic Growth Awards on May 8th in London, celebrating the impact of investment by US and UK companies in the other market; The Transatlantic Finance Forum in New York on June 11th, convening government, regulators and executives from the Financial Services Industry in the UK and USA to debate challenges and opportunities; our Corporate Citizenship Awards Dinner in London on June 5th honoring Antonio Horta-Osorio of Lloyds Bank and Karen Blackett of WPP and our regular series of round tables and policy sessions. There’s a lot going on and we are here to help!