11 July 2016

As the dust settles on the momentous Brexit decision, most people and businesses are asking what next? It is clear that no preparation or thought had really been given to the aftermath by either side of the argument, as the overwhelming majority assumed that it would be business as usual following a vote to remain. The country is now in a state of limbo with all of the major political parties in disarray, backtracking on promises, “buyer’s remorse” amongst a sizeable element of the electorate, and most investment decisions postponed for the foreseeable future.

Every crisis throws up a host of threats and opportunities – the future of the UK will depend upon the extent to which we minimise the former and maximise the latter. Many people will have ideas of what to do but it is clear that we need a major overhaul of the way that the country operates, akin to 1979, if we are to grasp the opportunity and fend off the threats. A steady hand is not enough to combat the economic threat to the UK and the years of inaction whilst negotiations take place. Bold thinking is required and whilst it will not be without pain there is undoubtedly a chance to recreate the UK as a country of enterprise.

Strong and decisive leadership is required across many spectrums. Politicians must lay down a route with the least amount of obstacles upon it. Big businesses need to forget day-to-day share prices and concentrate upon long term value. Banks should be forced to keep the lending doors open to all reasonable requests. The public sector needs to fundamentally reform its practices. SMEs should be nimble and look to make gains at big business’ expense.  Individuals need to take personal control of their futures.

It needs more than a blog post to develop these positions in a clear and coherent way, so I will take one small element – enterprise – upon which the future of the country rests.

There is a real degree of enterprise within the country but few people realise their dreams because of any number of events. I believe we now need to unleash this creativity. The key steps are:

  • A complete overhaul of the tax regime to simplify the structure, taking away 90% of the reliefs and cutting headline rates. This makes it harder for businesses to evade paying what is due but at the same time reduces the burden to acceptable levels. Big business and their advisors will howl outrage as they are the ones manipulating the tax relief system but these powerful voices need to be resisted. New enterprises will soon fill any gaps and overseas investment will continue to flow into a benign tax country with lower levels of bureaucracy.
  • A bonfire of the plethora of business support schemes which proliferate when government departments, local authorities and quangos wish to reinvent the wheel. We produce a national start up and growth programme – utilising on-line tools – which is available to all, along with barrier removing products such as the Start Up Loans company which should be funded by the banks.
  • Forget all major vanity infrastructure projects such as HS2 or Heathrow 3 and instead invest heavily in the regions by opening up road and rail systems, creating more regional air capacity, and installing fibre optic broadband in 100% of the country. This will have a much greater effect on enterprise than one or two cumbersome long term projects.
  • Overhaul enterprise learning in schools and colleges with the provision of a national curriculum standard for enterprise learning at every stage in the education system – and not once a term but at least once a week.

Big ideas and not easy to implement, but we have to behave entrepreneurially as a nation if we are to profit from the Brexit vote. It will take some brave people to make the above happen because it will step across many vested interests but the opportunity is immense, as is the threat if we slowly sink into recession.

Written by Kevin Horne, CEO of Nwes.

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