Like many of you, I went to sleep on the night of June 23 2016 feeling fairly certain that the Brexit referendum had swung to remain, only to wake the following morning and find that one of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s black swans had made its nest in the living room.
Brexit has dominated our national life since. Many businesses were left unable to plan adequately for the future by the continued uncertainty about what Brexit would actually mean. This culminated in high drama in Parliament and at the ballot box. Now, in theory, we are in a position to move on, whatever that actually means.
It’s hardly necessary to point out that Brexit isn’t done, or that the uncertainty around what it will mean for the economy or individual companies hasn’t gone.
For now most things will carry on exactly as before, but looking ahead so much will depend on the outcome of the trade talks that are due to start - and supposedly end - this year. Even if negotiations do conclude in 2020, it is highly doubtful that Britain’s trading relationships with the rest of the world will have settled into a clear shape within the next five years.
So what are we to do?
We may not feel any different later today than we did yesterday as EU members, but psychological breaks are important. Whether we think Brexit is a terrible mistake or not, this is an opportunity for leaders to reset the tone in their businesses for the next few years.
Will it be one of resentment, despondency and muddling through, or will a spirit of possibility emerge? Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to own a Union-Jack-jacketed Brexit bulldog to believe in optimism.
Whether Brexit will actually be good for your company is now quite beside the point - it may well be difficult, but it is no longer up to us.
What is up to us is whether we allow the profound negativity that has surrounded this issue for nearly four years to persist in what we think, say and do - because that negativity itself can hold us back.
The black swan may still be roosting, but the skies haven’t caved in. The world hasn’t ended (yet - the climate crisis is surely more deserving of our attention). Now it’s up to all of us to move on.
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