For business, the outlook tends to be a mixed bag of opportunities and challenges, but at present things are noticeably less positive than they could be. There are clouds on the horizon; Brexit-shaped clouds that make vague almost anything else and dominate the skyline.
In AD 98, following the Roman conquest, Tacitus wrote of Britain: “Their sky is obscured by continual rain and cloud, and the severity of the cold is unknown.” As we try to get to grips with the landscape of the UK economy post-Brexit, Tacitus’ writing seems unfortunately timely.
The effects of the withdrawal, indeed the very nature of Brexit, still seems obscured to most and the severity of our exit from the EU unknown to businesses, politicians and members of the public.
We are now less than 50 days away from D-Day (unless there is a very late-in-the-day extension of Article 50) and we still don’t know what we are dealing with. As we all know, and as I have repeated ad nauseum to parliamentarians for the past two years, businesses need stability and clarity in order to thrive. In fact, they also need it if they hope to survive.
Many of the questions being asked by hospitality employers remain unanswered and concerns dealt with inadequately. The Government has made its intentions known for a post-Brexit immigration system, but questions remain regarding future arrangements for visitors, visas and future access to workers.
There are also worries regarding trade flow and the practicalities around imports, exports and food prices. One of the rationales of Brexit was to provide us with additional opportunities, to forge new trade arrangements and let our businesses prosper. At present, all bets are off.
Despite the inclement weather, Tacitus ultimately referred to Britain as pretium victoriae, roughly translated as “worth the conquest”. As we look ahead to an uncertain future, perhaps we should ask ourselves if our own expedition into the unknown will be worth it.