Last week, at her first conservative party conference speech as prime minister, Theresa May announced that the government would repeal the 1972 European Communities Act and replace it with a new “Great Repeal Bill” that will remove the supremacy of European law in Britain.
This of course is the beginning of the long and winding road to Brexit, about which there has been, and will continue to be much speculation. Already a KPMG survey of UK CEOs suggests that many are considering relocation as a post Brexit contingency plan.
We have done this before.
The Act in Restraint of Annates in 1532 was the start of the process that removed Papal authority in England and Wales. Annates were the main source of income paid by the English church to Rome, which was money that bypassed the treasury of Henry the VIII and went essentially to Europe.
Later in 1532, power was removed from Europe and returned to the English crown and government. Up to this point the church in Rome had been the final court of appeal, and could overturn English cannon law.
There are a lot of similarities to these two great events, which I won’t discuss now, but I think what we can say is, that the decision then, as now resulted in a deeply divided country in need of unification.
In business continuity terms, I see Brexit as a “with notice, rising tide incident” which, as the description implies, gives us time to do a bit of assessment, mitigation and planning preparation. So the question is, “what are the new risks that Brexit presents to the delivery of our time critical activities.”
Having thought a lot about this, I have concluded that Brexit is actually just another scenario to add to the list of things that can disrupt our business activities, along with cyber, weather, terrorists, the new minimum wage and having all of your mobile phones spontaneously combust. Up till now, it was only money that burned a hole in your pocket.
If our BC plans, where relevant, protect people, premises, information, ICT, specialist equipment, suppliers and utilities, we are well on the way to weathering some of the tribulations that Brexit may inflict. There will have to be some adjustments made to plans depending on the service affected, but I think that the basic work is already in place. Existing BIAs should be a good place to start looking for European connections particularly in the supply chain details.
There are also a few obvious things that will need checking with regard to potential staff disruptions. If you have a large contingent of European nationals carrying out a critical activity, then we must consider what would happen if they all left at the same time. But this is no different to considering the implications of a lottery syndicate win or industrial action on a large scale. Outside of these things, I think our plans will cope.
There are many highly skilled and valued European workers within the United Kingdom, and we should do our best to keep them. It will very much depend on what additional rules the government puts in place concerning foreign workers. But where we can, companies should assist current staff with completing paperwork, providing references and advice where needed.
Apart from being the right thing to do, it makes good planning sense.