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Business Leadership EU Referendum

by Amanda Johnston


The EU Referendum: A Damaging Distraction

In the second of our series around the upcoming Brexit referendum, Head of HR Practice and HR Director Amanda Johnston, gives her thoughts on the affect it is having on business and how leaders are reacting to the debate.

What interesting times we live in! Although there is a lot of talk around the upcoming EU referendum, with some leaders making their opinions public to their staff and the press, most business leaders and HR professionals I am speaking to are still more currently concerned with their own immediate business challenges like growth and talent attraction and retention, rather than macro-political factors. The EU is rarely the first topic of conversation just now.

But I do feel as the campaigns ramp up, along with the rhetoric, this balance will change. Most contacts I have spoken with simply can’t believe we have got ourselves here, a little like the Trump situation in the US.

The Impact of the EU Referendum On Business

However, as June 23rd comes closer, thoughts will inevitably turn to the impact of a Brexit, or what our relationship in a reformed Europe would be like should we vote to stay in – two very big questions of which there are currently multiple answers and opinions!

As the conversation increases, I think it is inevitable that the fear factor will increase too. This is dangerous for overall confidence, stability and growth – the cornerstones of any economy. There are so many unanswered questions when it comes to a post-Brexit Britain. A long period of uncertainty is bound to follow, as well as a loss of crucial market confidence. There is also the point around foreign investment and jobs. Uncertainty can make the British market less attractive to investors, which can have an impact on jobs, expansion and infrastructure. It is not all doom and gloom however! It must be remembered that being part of a large, influential group of nations can only be a positive thing as our world becomes smaller due to increased globalisation – and I think this fact is being forgotten in the noise.

Whatever your opinion, or the size or scale of the business you are in, the referendum, result and fall out either way, will impact your organisation. Some may feel it directly in their labour force i.e those that use skilled migrant labour, wheras others may feel a change in their supply chain as suppliers react to changing circumstances.

There is also the many different EU-dependent sectors to think about – distribution, construction, retail, hospitality – all would suffer if we restricted the flow of EU talent. And that is not even to mention the health service, who rely on both EU and international talent to continue working. In terms of interim talent, the injection of expertise, experience and stability that they provide  will help business manage the uncertainty and whatever change is coming.

In my opinion, and in common with many other of those I have spoken to, the whole EU referendum is simply an unnecessary distraction that is affecting decision making in the UK market. On top of fragile oil prices and a slowdown in China, not to mention the Trump factor, I do feel it amounts to an incredibly harmful and damaging situation for our country.

For Nigel Peters’ post on Brexit: Project Fear vs Project Fact click here.

What is your opinion on the EU referendum? How have you seen it affect businesses? Share your thoughts with our community.

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About the Author

Amanda Johnston

Amanda joins Alium Partners with an extensive track record as a Senior HR professional and experience on “both sides of the table”. A true HR generalist, Amanda has a comprehensive background in a range of different organisations including acquisitions, re-structuring, delivering rapid growth and working with specialist HR teams (Reward, Recruitment, and HRIS).

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