A survivor's guide to Brexit

With the EU referendum result plunging Britain's economy and government into turmoil, here are MT's top tips to help you minimise collateral damage.

by MT Staff
Last Updated: 05 Jul 2016

However you greeted the news that broke in the early hours of Friday 24 June, whether it sent you off to work with a song of freedom in your heart, or made you feel like diving dismally back under the duvet for a decade or two, the fact is that Brexit is now clearly a thing. And a pretty big thing, at that. The people have spoken - or should that be howled - and we are all going to have to get used to it.

It's a seismic shift that has taken not only Britain but much of the world by surprise, as the mayhem that wiped $3tn off global markets in the first three post-Brexit trading days goes to show. Still, we are where we are and it is what it is, as the sage once said.

So in the glass half-full spirit of MT we have compiled a seven-point guide to making the most of Brexit. Its aim is twofold - to help you survive the initial shockwave, and having done so to offer a few pointers as to how we might all go about forging a thriving new future as a prosperous and settled European, rather than EU, nation. (With or without the Scots.)


If there is one commodity that the Brexit debacle has shown to be in perilously short supply in the UK at present it is good leadership. The ugly campaigns before the referendum were bad enough, but the in-fighting, obstinacy and naked opportunism on display since have arguably been even worse.

Our prosperity and security may hang in the balance, but the leading lights of the main parties seem more interested in furthering their own ambitions than dealing with the big stuff that will decide all our futures. Yes Bo-Jo, Corbyn, Sturgeon, Farage we're talking about you.

So set the example that they don't. Provide, at least in your own business, the encouragement and vision that is so sadly lacking elsewhere in public life.

What is good leadership? Well, we have plenty of recent examples of what it isn't - it's not lying, it's not quoting 'facts' which you know are nothing of the kind to support your case, it's not agreeing to bad decisions in order to 'win' today that will end up causing much bigger losses tomorrow, and it's especially not cynically stoking resentment of outsiders and inciting people to believe that the authors of their misfortunes are remote and foreign when in fact they are much closer to home.

Try instead to be calm, honest, inclusive and even a little inspiring. We know the 'I' word can seem tricky but it's not as difficult as it sounds. Focus on what unites people rather than what divides them. Demonstrate that you have a plan, know where you want to go and that you are ready for a few bumps in the road along the way.

Above all, offer hope. Be optimistic for the future and help people see that what look like threats, even existential ones, are often simply opportunities in disguise.


If your Brexit contingency plan is 'hide in a corner and wait for it all to go away', you may be in trouble. But there are opportunities to be had, if you're brave enough to take them. Whether you're a plucky start-up, a pivoting corporate or just a wannabe James Dyson, it's time to look for silver linings.

Sterling is weak and the UK is hanging onto the single market by its fingertips. That might sound grim, but it also gives British firms a chance to undercut European imports in sectors ranging from wine (Bradford could be the new Bordeaux) through chocolate (you can keep your Godivas, we've got Thorntons) to fashion (who needs Prada when you've got Primark?). There may even be a Buy British movement for you to exploit.

Multinational firms are pausing investments while they wait for the lengthy Brexit negotiations to take shape. That may hurt the economy as a whole, but it creates the perfect conditions for the opportunistic business to grow on the cheap. Depressed commercial property prices? Lower rents. Mass unemployment? A deep and motivated talent pool. Uncertainty over GDP growth? A near-guarantee of continued low interest rates.


OK so this is a bit of a long shot but bear with us. In hindsight the referendum rot really got going when David Cameron came back from Brussels in February with his tail between his legs, having failed to secure a single substantive reform from the European Council.

And although the former PM could have played his hand better, there must also be those members of the infamous 'eurocracy' who are now wishing they had given Cameron some slightly weightier concessions to carry home in his diplomatic bag.

Because even the hardiest Europhile finds it hard to explain away awkward EU truths like the ongoing failure to do anything much about fraud and misuse of funds (which even officially runs at around 5% of total spending and in reality is likely to be more), or the way in which countries like Greece and Portugal were first encouraged in their economic folly, and then hung out to dry in order to protect the status quo.

It's clear that the UK is far from being the only EU member state with reservations about the way they are governed. One post-referendum poll found that even in France only 38% of people now have a 'positive view' of the EU.

Among all the carnage, it's just possible that the shock of Brexit may be the irresistible force required to finally get the immovable object of EU reform rolling. A group of Eastern European countries led by Poland is already exploring greater democracy and openness in the governance of Europe. If Brexit achieves that seemingly impossible task then it might almost have been worth the cost. But will they let us rejoin afterwards? Hmmm ...


It's not yet clear what form Britain's trade relationship with the EU will take once negotiations are concluded. But for those looking to flog their wares overseas, there's a wealth of opportunity beyond this continent. Britain will likely now be 'free' to negotiate its own trade deals with the likes of America, India and China - though the jury's still out on whether it will be able to get as good a deal as if it hadn't left.

But, trade deal notwithstanding, exporting is an increasingly attractive prospect thanks to the nosediving value of the pound. That might be a bad thing in the long term but for now it means you can boost trade abroad with lower prices than you would have been able to offer six months ago.

Sure, it's not as straightforward to export beyond the EU. Many a business has come a cropper thanks to zealous customs officials, dodgy import 'taxes' and confusing cultural differences. But the opportunities are enormous. If you can sell every person in India just one £5 product, you can bring home a tidy £6.5bn.

Exporting to developing markets, the US and other distant shores isn't just the purview of big business, either. From Laurence Harris, the Welsh dairy farmer who sells flavoured milk in China and the Middle East, to Simon Duffy, whose Bulldog skincare products are on shelves as far and wide as Seoul and San Francisco, there are plenty of entrepreneurs who have made the leap. While our fraught relationship with Europe makes the government's prior goal of reaching £1tn worth of exports by 2020 seem laughable, British businesses must continue to grow their share of the riches that foreign market have to offer.


On the evening of referendum polling day a host of Brit advertising, media and marketing types were all aboard a flight out of Nice back to London. Having attended the Cannes ad festival, many had calculated they would just make it to the polling booth by 10pm.

Sadly the French air traffic controllers were on strike as they had been 12 times in the previous 13 weeks. (France is currently crippled by widespread strikes over long-waited labour law reform.) The passengers - almost certainly metropolitan Remainers - couldn't vote.

France has much to fear from Brexit. Its economy is weak, unreformed, inefficient and highly vulnerable. France's manufacturing unit-labour costs have risen by 28% since 2000 compared to just 8% in Germany. French employers pay 13 cents more in payroll taxes for each euro paid in salary than German firms. Its football team may be infinitely superior to England's woeful 11 but the outlook is grim.

In any coming negotiation about our future relationship with Europe, the main object must be to neutralise the French. It must be possible to cut a deal with the Germans, the Poles, even the Italians. They are realists. We are worth $98bn per annum to German exporters. Some of them even see our point of view.

The French, however, will not be able to resist the age-old temptation to slip the knife in as far as they are able, especially as they have a vested interest in discouraging their own 'Frexit' problem, which with an increasingly confident Far Right has become very real. The French are already pushing hard to eliminate English as an available language within the EU. This despite the fact that among EU and UK citizens, more than 51% speak English as a first or second language, compared to 32% for German and 26% for French.

We have proved a pain in the neck for les énarques who have run France for far too long.

When the news of the UK referendum was announced a senior adviser to President Hollande told Channel 4 News: 'Britain is out. So long. Bye bye. Ciao.' Il ne regrette rien.


So there's a leadership vacuum in Westminster and the opposition is in disarray too. The value of our currency has plunged, along with the FTSE 250. Standard & Poor's and Moody's have both cut the UK's credit rating. One in five businesses is planning to move some of their operations abroad. All of this is bad but things could be much worse - for all the doom and gloom, Britain is not Greece.

We're not in the Euro, for one. Extricating ourselves from the EU would be even trickier if we also had to resurrect an old currency, with all the banknote printing, vending machine modifications and price adjustments that would entail. Yes the pound has plummeted in value, but better that way than being stuck with a currency whose value depends on how many Mercs the Germans have flogged this month. Softer sterling should also act to offset at least some foreign investors' Brexit fears, by making their dollars, rupees and yuan go that much further.

Even more importantly, Britain has a strong and dynamic economy, underpinned by fantastic businesses. It's among the best countries in the world for advertising, design and media. The City will remain a powerhouse - as long as it doesn't lose access to the Eurozone. And even manufacturing, contrary to popular opinion, is strong. We might have outsourced cheap and easy production to Asia and Eastern Europe, but Britain still makes great cars (in foreign-owned factories), brews brilliant beers (and some not so brilliant) and assembles excellent aircraft engines.

Some people love to do down our education system, which has admittedly slipped in the league tables compared with the rapidly ascending Asian economies. But our schools and universities remain a magnet for students from all over the world and our graduates are doing fantastic things.

In this time of crisis it could be tempting to succumb to the doom and gloom. But with a dose of Dunkirk spirit and a glass half full (of Newcastle Brown Ale or even Kentish 'champagne') Britain can get through this.


The puny pound may help overseas trade but it's pretty bad news as far as the nation's Europe-loving holidaymakers are concerned. Less bouillabaisse on La Croisette, more haricots sur toast in the Cuillère Graisseuse on the seafront.

As if our newly strangled European spending power wasn't enough, there will also be the dirty looks that many of our former continental chums will no doubt be throwing at visiting Brits this summer to contend with. All in all you'd be better off Remaining at home for your Leave.

So it's hello again to the staycation, the British holiday that even the worst of political weather can't spoil.Scarborough, Margate and Newquay were good enough for us in post-crash 2009, when twice as many people stayed at home for their hols as usual, and they're good enough now.

For the adventurous staycationer, what could be more authentic than a multi-centre Brexit tour to reconnect with the UK's forgotten post-industrial heartlands? With tourism contributing a whopping £115bn a year to the UK economy - 8% of GDP - it's practically your patriotic duty to check out forgotten gems like Wolverhampton, Newport, Derby and Middlesbrough. So pack your bucket, spade, industrial grade waterproofs and regional phrase book and boldly stay put this year.

Credit: Alamy


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