How many EU referendum voters on 23 June knew what “Britain’s membership of the EU” means?

The immediate dust following the Brexit vote settled, and debate over recent weeks has centred around controlling immigration AND staying within the European market. Yet the referendum question was not offering this option!

Did the 33.5 million who voted get beyond the emotive declarations of both sides to fully understand the likely repercussions of a vote one way or the other?

How could they, amidst the unedifying mudslinging? Maybe that is why very nearly 13 million could have voted, but did not.

Already some repercussions of Brexit are evident.

For well over two decades we have been guided (by law) to embrace diversity. That openness is embedded culturally, certainly in the agency world, and has brought us rich talent with different backgrounds. The FOCUS team includes Brits, EU nationals and non-EU nationals in equal measure. And I am in zero doubt we have a wider perspective for it. I would also argue, as our clients are British, EU and non-EU, it is in fact essential to mutual understanding.

In one FOCUS/client meeting held in our capital only last month, there were five people around the table; none British. And one of the announcements the government recently made was around identifying foreigners. Ludicrous.

Following Cameron’s resignation (inevitable when he chose to call a referendum he then lost) we had the immediate announcement that Theresa May’s government is for everyone. Yet the talent drain caused by both ‘foreigners’ feeling unwelcome, and housing and public transport being unaffordable means in fact the opportunities are only for those who can afford a roof in the city or a season ticket to get there. The exact opposite of ‘everyone’.

How can we as an agency recruit young talent, based on their personal drive and skills, when actually the debate soon turns around whether they or their family can fund their working/ living in the capital?  The exact opposite of democracy. The exact opposite of meritocracy.

How nimble of Australia to stage a pop-up sandy beach in London this week to publicise the raising of their working visa age cut off from 30 to 35! The current haemorrhage of millennials is unlikely to be stemmed, it seems.  As Australia’s minister for trade, tourism and investment Steven Ciobo was quoted in The London Evening Standard as saying; ”With more than half of Britain’s 18 to 25 year olds saying they would consider a temporary move abroad to travel or work post-Brexit, and Australia their most preferred place to do that outside of Europe, the appeal of a working holiday Down Under has arguably never been stronger”.

This could have the same effect as the rural housing costs have had on the rural talent drain.  It’s simply hitting our cities hard now too.  Not a result of the Brexit vote, I appreciate, but an unsettled economy where everyone is treading water and waiting to see what the actual terms of our exit will be, is certainly contributing to the risk-averse atmosphere prevalent at the moment.  Huge residential building projects are being put on hold.  How is that going to help anyone?

Before the referendum, I wrote “I think the outcome on 23 June will boil down to emotion: do we as a nation feel optimistic about the destiny of humankind and are we prepared to embrace opportunities in collaboration with other culturally similar European nations, or do we feel we must be fearful and retreat?”

We have our answer.  But when has fear ever come out on top in history?

I hope 48% of us will try to carry on living our lives, fearless.

Yesterday’s momentous High Court ruling that the government must consult Parliament on the terms of Brexit prior to triggering Article 50 is delicious. And the pound leapt for joy.

With every day that Article 50 is not triggered, that’s another day Britain remains a member of the EU, outside the Schengen Agreement, inside the European single market.

Fear not…

We must play the long game.

SHARE THIS POST