Today I had the pleasure of being invited to the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce to hear a speech by George Osborne, aimed at reassuring the business community following last week’s European Union referendum result.
Whilst reiterating that his desire would have been to remain within the EU, the Chancellor spoke with conviction on the need to recognise and respect the referendum result and move forwards to a mutually agreeable solution. Whilst the majority view to leave will have to be progressed, the exact nature of the divorce and the relationship moving forwards is still very much up in the air and Mr Osborne stressed the need for strong leadership in the coming negotiations.
As this graphic from the Financial Times shows, the breadth of options for relations with our European neighbours outside the EU, are numerous and complex. We could fit into any number of pre-existing structures or negotiate an entirely new deal with the Union that could look vastly different or broadly similar to the current position.
Alongside a well negotiated settlement with the EU, that strives to get the best results for the British people both politically and economically, the Chancellor highlighted a need to double efforts associated with advancing the Northern Powerhouse Agenda. You may remember that Osborne highlighted risks to the Northern Powerhouse project in the event of an Exit vote, and one of the questions asked of the Chancellor was around this issue. In answering the question, the Chancellor acknowledged that the vote would impact upon business and the lives of ordinary people, but declared that the Northern Powerhouse not only remained on track but was “more important than ever”.
After a campaign that created real division nationally and has clearly left many unhappy with the result, Studio North agree with the Chancellor’s thoughts. We need to understand that the result of the vote was not an automatic death sentence for trade, mobility of labour or cultural diversity. In the run up to the referendum both sides painted Doomsday pictures of the respective opposition’s outcome. At the heart of this was a simple political reality that in order to get people out and voting, the stick can be as effective as the carrot. This was not “negative campaigning” per se, but claims that both sides employed “politics of fear” probably hold some truth.
What the vote did throw up, and the Chancellor and markets have each acknowledged, is uncertainty and in truth this is where the need for the real hard work begins. The Leave vote was effectively a vote for the unknown, we are now inhabiting this unknown and need strong economic and political leadership to see us through to a solution as equitable, productive and workable as possible.
We need political leadership that allows for cooperation across the political spectrum to limit the influence of fringe elements and minority views. We need business and citizen engagement to ensure that the outcome of negotiations is well directed and results in the best outcome possible.
We believe that the economic and social fortunes of the North and the wider United Kingdom rests squarely on the ability to deliver in these areas identified. The Northern Powerhouse is needed now more than ever, and we need careful stewardship to see this through to its full potential.