Leaver, Remainer, Hard Brexit, Soft Brexit, People’s Vote – no matter your opinion I’m sure we can all agree if we ran our businesses like the government is ‘running’ this farce it would be CVAs, administrators and P45s all round.”
Gary White, the managing director of Belfast’s Northside Graphics and digitalprinting.co.uk, probably speaks for the vast majority of his industry peers with this statement.
Although printing industry business leaders reacted with relief after the threat of a no deal Brexit on 12 April was averted, they remain despairing that uncertainty is set to continue with the country’s elected leaders still seemingly no closer to a concrete solution to the Brexit conundrum. It is not so much concrete, as a quagmire.
BPIF chief executive Charles Jarrold points out that there’s a real risk that people get so fed up with the whole process that a ‘just get on with it’ mindset could prevail, rather than a focus on the best outcome. He makes a fair point when he says: “When all the options are bad sometimes the best thing to do is to hit the ‘pause’ button.”
But as Jarrold also notes, this pause must be used as an opportunity to fix the underlying issues that have led us to where we are now, with politicians currently unable to agree on a way forward.
“Somehow this has to be resolved over the next six months. MPs must settle on the best option, or something minimally damaging,” Jarrold adds, while pointing to the understandable frustrations of BPIF members at the lack of progress after nearly three years of machinations.
“Brexit has been an enormous distraction in terms of time, effort and financial expenditure that doesn’t actually deliver tangible business benefits,” he says. “30%-40% of our members have had to increase stocks and that’s something people can ill afford.”
Businesses of all shapes and sizes expressed similar frustrations. Clifton Packaging sales director Zed Sheikh appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Wake up to Money show last week, bemoaning the negative impact of Brexit. Following news of the ‘Brextension’ until 31 October, he told PrintWeek: “We’re very disappointed. It’s total uncertainty and the blind leading the blind.
“We want to see total clarity and [for government] to let people know what the deal involves, to list it all out, clarify it and to say that after Brexit, this is what will happen.
“That is the basic knowledge that people need to know. At the moment they don’t know, they just see a talk show on TV with no positive outcomes every day. The amount of resource being squandered is just mind-blowing.”
Maybe David Webster, managing director at The Label Makers in Bradford has the right idea. Perhaps the best thing to do is to ignore Brexit and just keep calm and carry on. He says: “We have carried on as if nothing is happening at all. I am glad I did not stop investing because who knows how long this will last for?
“We are all so frustrated, but we cannot influence what is happening. How long are we going to wait? It will be six months, then another six months, and on and on. We may well just end up staying anyway.”
"The tragedy of the current situation is that even the best form of Brexit we can envisage is inferior to the deal we already have!”
Paul Utting CEO, Walstead Group
"For the past eight years we have shipped to France and Germany, but I have noticed since the Brexit vote that customers have looked elsewhere. We have had to look at different avenues locally, around the UK or further afield beyond Europe for possible revenue streams.”
Pam Wainman Managing director, Jadan Press
"What a mess. The difficulty is, there were so many opposing views of what leaving the EU meant to people. Another six months of arguing isn’t going to reach a consensus. And we haven’t even started the “real” trade negotiations yet. The wisest way to use this six months is a second referendum. Give people the choice of ways to exit: Norway-Double-Division, Japan-Minus-Three, Canada-Multiplied-by-Seven or whatever. And an option to choose the deal we currently have.”
Peter Gunning CEO, Grafenia
"Just one word – speechless.”
Susan Ellison Joint managing director, OPM (Labels & Packaging)
"None of this is ideal but achieving the extension provides ‘stability of uncertainty’ which sounds ridiculous but it’s the position we’ve all been in for months and we’ve all just been getting on with it. The real issue remains though, which is the deadlock in Parliament and my fear is that without agreement wrong decisions will be made for the wrong reasons and we’ll all suffer much more pain in the short term than we should have.”
Darren Coxon Managing director, Pensord