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Asleep At The Wheel? Are We Forgetting About Brexit?


As we focus on Covid-19, are we forgetting about Brexit?

Last year we were all sick of talking about Brexit. Remember how we hoped that 2020 would bring something (anything!) different?

None of us envisaged the all-consuming nature of the Coronavirus pandemic and how it would change our lives in such profound ways.

Whilst our attentions have all shifted to pandemic management and deep cleans during 2020, our favourite topic for 2019 (and ’18/’17/’16), Brexit, has not gone away.  It has merely slipped down the news agenda.  But out of sight should not mean out of mind.

In many ways the negotiations between the UK and EU resemble any other high-level corporate deal. There is a lot of noise, fury and bashing of chests – all designed to appeal to their respective shareholders (in this case the electorate) -with both sides wanting to tell those same voters that they got the best deal and ‘the other guy blinked’.

BUT what if no one blinks. What if they keep staring at each other and the clock runs down? We end up with no deal.

So what does this mean and what should YOU be doing?

A senior Government Minister recently put the chance of a no deal Brexit at 33%. This presents a serious risk that we all need to be ready for. From looking at the possible impacts we would suggest that clients need to consider the following:

Labour – The availability of European labour will be impacted whether there is a deal or not. This will have a profound impact in certain sectors of the FM world. Some areas, such as security and cleaning have come to rely heavily on Eastern European labour. With the proposed changes to immigration rules it will become much harder to recruit overseas.

However, it is likely that the economic damage of the Coronavirus will cause a spike in people looking for work. A well targeted recruitment drive could mitigate any projected contraction in the traditional labour market.

Now is the time for all employers to take stock of their current workforce. If it includes large numbers of non-British nationals then ensure that they have registered with the EU settlement scheme. Identify potential staff gaps that might arise in the next 12 months and start to think about where your future employees will come from. This could include talking to recruitment agencies, making sure that you are registered with job websites, exhibiting at jobs fairs (if we can hold them) and connecting with local authorities to see what recruitment channels are available for your industry. 

Supply Chains – These could be profoundly impacted. In the event of no deal a hard customs barrier is created which could lead to queues of 7000 lorries at Dover – effectively turning the M20 into the world’s largest lorry park. Although travel won’t stop it will be dramatically delayed whilst the new processes bed in.  

Companies reliant on European supply chains should not ignore this possibility but instead make preparations by:

- Using other routes.
If Dover is suffering severe delays can your products come via Folkstone, Southampton or Liverpool (to name but three)?

- Carrying more stock.
If you have capacity, can you order now and store what you need to accommodate border delays?

- Buying British and broadening your supply chain.
Can the same or similar products come from either outside the EU, or better yet can you ‘buy British’. The latter in particular is popular with customers and the public. It also goes down very well during tender processes, especially for catering contracts. If sourcing manufactured goods from the EU is about to become trickier then we may well see a small renaissance in UK manufacturing.

- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
This is mainly directed at hard FM services. Recommissioning parts can make economic and environmental sense.  We have seen this put to great use in the lift sector, with companies such as Guideline Lift Services investing in obsolete stock warehouses and recommissioning engineers.  Perhaps now is the time to embrace environmentalism and look at ways of efficiently reusing existing products.

The last seven months have turned the FM world on its head, but if we don’t prepare properly then the next three might do the same all over again.

So please – take a deep breath, grab a coffee and start pulling out the spreadsheets once again. Review your supply chain and look at the makeup of your workforce.

Mark Weston is a consultant at Vixus Property Advisory.  Prior to joining Vixus he served as Chief of Staff to Ashley Fox MEP between 2009 and 2019.