By now you should have planned for Day One after a ‘no deal. But are you ready for Day One after deal? Mark Essex explains you should prepare for all eventualities - downside and upside too.
By now you should be more or less ready for Day One after a ‘no deal’ (whether you are or not may be a moot point). But who has asked themselves: am I ready for the day after deal? Whether you like the PM’s plan or not, should she defy the odds next week and get her Meaningful Vote through Parliament, businesses across the country will breathe a huge sigh of relief and then use this news as their cue to down tools, come off a war footing and send crisis teams home. Transition, and a steady-state for at least 21 months, beckons.
I am urging clients not to be so hasty. Businesses who roll up their detailed contingency plans after this news could be caught out in other ways and end up both missing out on a deal dividend and also leaving themselves vulnerable in other ways.
Picture the scene: a City trading floor, moments after Speaker Bercow announces a victory for the prime minister. Screens turn green as the pound surges against major currencies (not perhaps returning to pre-referendum heights but a strong recovery nevertheless).
What quick decisions do you need to make off the back of this news around your hedging strategy, export pricing strategy, import orders (as prices fall) and how you might take advantage in other ways?
Your sales team see pent up demand finally starting to flow more freely. Consumer spirits are revived. Clients who’d put projects on ice are suddenly calling again. That’s great if you’ve stockpiled physical goods against the threat of ‘no deal’, but what if it’s a service you provide and it’s capital or people you’re in short supply of. Who and how do you prioritise? Do you need to fund additional work in progress?
It might be time to restart your own investment plans. Having priced in a period of stasis because of an extension to the Brexit process, suddenly you need to start talking to your banks again or wooing overseas investors.
Don’t forget also that ‘deal’ implies a huge amount of change that your business needs to prepare for. We still don’t know whether all EU trade deals with third countries will simply be rolled over under transition. Do you fully understand what transition would imply for you on a day-to-day basis? In areas like immigration, our post-transition state is already fairly well sketched out, and there are plenty of new rules for employers to master, as Punam Birly, our immigration lead, explains here.
All over bar the shouting?
These are simple examples perhaps, but they offer a sense of the way things could move very quickly in just one week from now. I am, 100%, urging clients to stick with a precautionary approach and keep planning for ‘no deal’ in 24 days’ time. The point here is that things can change very quickly and secondly that a deal represents a massive change compared with the backdrop of uncertainty against which businesses have been trying to operate for the past three years.
Of course, the ‘deal’ we hope for is only the withdrawal stage: it would allow business to clear the most immediate and dangerous of hurdles, but it offers business less clarity about the whole basis on which the UK and EU will trade in future. And because a deal would only really represent the beginning of the end, the upturn in business activity, investment or currency appreciation might resemble more of a spike than a surge.
Whichever outcome – and particularly if the positive effects of a deal are short-lived - my advice is to remain as agile for deal as you would be for no deal.
In practical terms that means not letting your executive team all disappear on holiday at the same time; don’t cancel that meeting with your banks; keep talking to suppliers and customers; read that supply chain review on your desk; work out what the effect on your business would be if the pound rose by, say, 10% just as much as if it fell by 10%.
In short, prepare for all eventualities: the upside as much as the down.
This article represents the views of the author only, and does not necessarily represent the views or professional advice of KPMG in the UK. You can register for the email subscription list of this column and expert views from our Brexit leaders.