Planning to thrive
There are many who believe that if Theresa May fails to win the Commons vote on her Withdrawal Agreement, she will just keep putting it back to MPs until they give in. Let’s hope this does not turn out to be so. She should accept the result and move on – and expend her energy on taking no-deal preparations to a new level.
Right now the Government is just into the first stage: planning for survival. These are the essential logistical concerns, such as ensuring adequate supply of food and medicine even if the EU were to seek deliberately to curtail trade. Britain has achieved far more on this front in recent weeks than many of us feared, and the EU has also started to put in place plans to minimise no-deal disruption. Much more needs to be done for the first stage, but the Government should also quickly look ahead to the next: planning to manage. There are a great many things that businesses need to be informed of. For instance, what tariffs will they have to pay to export or import to the EU? Will we declare unilateral free trade? Will the Government compensate – in a way that is compatible with World Trade Organisation membership – farmers or other groups? The Government desperately needs to detail its future trade, fiscal and regulatory policies.
The final stage is planning to thrive. Without a deal, we would be able to sign new trade deals from day one and the Government would have to accelerate its plans on this front massively. We should already be talking to Australia, America, Japan and everyone else. If the Government explains confidently how it is dealing with the three stages of survive, manage and thrive, it would not only reduce the air of panic but also give Mrs May real strength at the negotiating table.