Why Brexit communications make me concerned at a lack of vision

I’ve just deleted 400 words explaining why I don’t agree with Brexit that I realised is superfluous. That’s not the point of this blog. The point of this blog is that from the perspective of the communications consultant I have no idea what either the UK Government, or the wider pro Brexit establishment, actually want to gain from Brexit.

I’m not questioning whether it was the right or wrong thing. The votes were cast and a majority of the population that voted chose to leave the EU.

In general, government communications will give a steer as to preferred outcomes of diplomatic engagement. However, despite the geopolitical, legal, social and economic consequences at stake, at the moment I’ve no clue as to whether HMG has a vision of the UK’s place in the global system. What is the overall strategic objective? What are its ideal, neutral and worst case scenarios realistic scenarios and how will this effect my family’s well being?

Comments such as going back to the Commonwealth, the Anglosphere and even worse “empire 2.0” demonstrate a lack of understanding of how international trade works, the position of the UK in the global economy and the perception of the UK in the countries that used to be run from Whitehall until the middle of the 20th Century. See here for some interesting ONS statistics: http://visual.ons.gov.uk/commonwealth-trade-in-focus-as-uk-prepares-for-brexit/

Then there’s the Irish issue which is not really about the Brexit arguments that have been made in England, but about how the Island of Ireland should function on an economic, trade, social and political level. Brexit is the catalyst for a new conversation about partition, unionism and the future direction of sovereignty on the Island, which Westminster seems singularly unwilling to consider, but whilst they close their eyes and ears, other parties are making the case for change. I don’t think we’ll see a return to the 70s and 80s, but things could get bad quickly. Ostriches that stick their heads in the sand can have their arses shot off.

I’m sure some Brexit supporters will tell me that I’m being unduly negative and that my support for Remain is blinding me to the potential for the UK once it’s free from the EU, or that my Irish connections make me unpatriotic. Then there’s the public affairs advisors that will say “why shouldn’t HMG keep their powder dry until negotiations actually start? You wouldn’t give away your M&A strategy until you make your offer would you?”

I’m not sure I buy either argument. Politics is generally about selling a vision of the future, even if it’s pretty broad brush stuff. I’m just not seeing anything other than the blandest generalities that have little or no meaning. The lack of communication of any sort of detailed vision makes me feel there is a general lack of confidence in a strategy that is already announced. This in of itself invalidates the M&A argument. The initial offer has been made. Now is the time to get shareholders on side.

My genuine concern is that with the massive task approaching them, they are like a rabbit in the headlights, unable to make a decision until the oncoming HGV (probably a Mercedes of VW) crushes it.

I hope they’re just playing clever. I don’t think they are.

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2 thoughts on “Why Brexit communications make me concerned at a lack of vision

  1. You might be surprised to hear that I agree with you on this one. As someone who voted Leave on 23rd June 2016, I have not much idea of what the Government’s vision is, assuming they have one, for the UK post EU. I think this is for a number of reasons, but I don’t think any of them are a failure to communicate. The principle problem is that they don’t yet have anything to communicate as in One Vision.

    The majority of the government are still Remainers at heart and mind, so are in the rather unusual position of having to champion something in which they do not believe. But that’s their own fault for being stupid enough to hold a referendum.

    Their bigger problem is that I assume their research shows the only voters who they should care about, those who live in the swing seats and are swing voters, have very mixed feelings on the whole subject.

    Some people who voted for Leave saw this primarily if not wholly as a vote against immigration. Not just EU immigration but all immigration. Perversely they will find that Brexit may well increase some of the immigration they dislike, which is why some other people voted Leave for opposite reasons, because they are globally minded and see opportunities beyond the old fashioned, protective and restrictive EU Club. The first group however rather like the protection despite disliking it being exercised in Brussels. Many Leavers were motivated by talk of sovereignty and being more British. Ironically again it is many of these people who now attack the institution, conventions and the very Constitution of that sovereignty, because they disagree with rulings and votes going against them. Hardly anybody voting Leave had any idea of what Brexit would mean economically, mainly because the effects of economic change inside and outside the EU are equally mystifying.

    As newspaper journalists are taught to write with a reader having the mental age of a 10 year old in the head, so in political campaigning I was taught that most people cannot understand any number bigger than their own income. Putting zeros on numbers just puts more zeros on. Most people can’t tell the difference between £20k and £20b. If it’s more money than they have it is meaningless. This is the core of the problem in understanding economics at all, let alone of the EU, it’s just too big.

    From a Communications point of view, the government are being given a free pass by the mind numbing incompetence of HM Opposition who trouble them little. So they have until 2019 to get there act together on this as we won’t be voting until 2020, assuming the PM can resist the temptation to try to go to the polls early. In any case anything that is communicated now will be long forgotten by the time people come to vote. Swing voters in swing seats invariably make their decisions on voting at the last moment, usually as a consequence of one headline, one picture, one TV image. Anything communicated now would be a waste of time. The only people who are listening, by and larghe, do not have votes worth counting – including my own!

  2. Watching this debacle from outside as a Portuguese national, I have to agree the current strategy is not very well defined or well executed for that matter(of course there can’t be one without the other but let’s not focus on the details).
    My main concern is whether it is on purpose, and using the rabbit in the headlights analogy, they swiftly escape from the situation, or they are deliberately failing to pitch an agreeable deal for both parts, in which case it will no longer be a rabbit on the headlight of a car but focused on the headlights of a freight train.
    Hopefully, for your sake its the first one

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