Friday, 29 June 2018

#SEBREXIT18 HR and Brexit, or really, Brexit. And a little nod to HR

I'll be attending Symposium's HR and Brexit summit on Thursday (5th July 2018) next week. They've put together a great list of speakers, and if you're able to, you should come.

There are lots of big issues for us to consider so I don't expect the event will be overly political. 

I also don't intend to make my more posting political either, but part of the reason I set up my blog 11 years ago was that I felt I'd colluded (in a very small way) with the broader dysfunctional behaviours in financial services that took us into the 2007 crash, and I wanted to be more open about my beliefs.

In addition, Brexit is an issue that it's hard not to be at least partly political about - eg economic forecasts depend upon what assumptions you choose to make about the future, which will themselves depend upon your politics. I'm also not sure I'll be able to post from a conference on Brexit without being fairly clear about my beliefs around the topic.

But if you're not interested in, or are perhaps vehemently opposed to, these views, and you just want strategic HR stuff from me, please just move on to my next post. (And I know about 48% of people in the UK and probably a higher proportion of people elsewhere will disagree with these suggestions.)

I voted leave. And I still support that decision. As I tweeted at the time, the EU is dysfunctional, self serving and overly bureaucratic, and we'll be best off outside it.

This dysfunction and self serving is shown was shown best in the Greek financial crisis where the EU cracked down on the Greek people rather than supporting them. That is, it was more concerned about itself rather than the population it is supposed to be serving.

However the issue came to the fore as far as the UK is concerned when David Cameron tried to negotiate some tailored approaches which better suited the UK. Once again the EU showed it was more concerned about itself than our population.

One of these areas was immigration. I don't think that this was the issue that led to Brexit but it's clearly a particularly significant challenge for the UK given the small size of the British isles (particularly the sunny bits where most people want to live) and the fact that so many people speak English, and know they can come and live in the UK. That's got nothing to do with any individual who has or wants to come and live here but just recognises the strain which a huge rate of population growth has put on housing, transportation, health and many other areas. An effective and representative government would have recognised these factors and should have wanted to do something about them. Instead, the EU basically said no.

I voted leave mainly on an organisation design perspective - if the EU was a client I'd tell them their top level structure wasn't effective or sustainable and needed to be sorted out. The UK government isn't perfect either and once we've sorted out Brexit I'd like to see us taking action about our head of state (moving from being a monarchy to something closer to a republic) and the house of lords as well. But at least these issues are within our own control to change.

I also think it's important to take action on issues rather than to let them fester because they're too difficult to be dealt with. For example, if someone is living in a bad marriage, and they have tried to improve it, and it's still dysfunctional, I believe that in most cases, they should get out, rather than stay in it for the sake of the kids. This may not be the ideal time to exit the EU, but there never will be an ideal time. If we can't tackle the issue now we never will and we'll be tied to an ineffective supernational government for ever.

We needed to bite the bullet and have the issue resolved now.

So I'm really proud that the UK made the decision it did. I'm absolutely not comparing the EU to the conflictual relationships in the world wars, but I do think our unwillingness to put up with the EU resembled in some ways our being unprepared to ignore tyranny in WW2. Sometimes you need to confront a problem, regardless of the consequence, because it's the right thing to do.  (This is linked, once again, in a very minor way, to the reason that I started blogging, and why I'm posting this now.)

The withdrawal process since the referendum clearly hasn't gone that well, but at least a significant part of that has been down to the EU being the EU, more interested in protecting itself than supporting a member country and its population that has already paid nearly £200 billion net to the EU over the last 45 years. We deserve better, but the EU was never going to deliver it. The difficulties we've experienced in the negotiations are the same ones which lie behind us leaving.

And whatever difficulties we face in leaving the EU, these will be balanced longer-term by having a government that works for us, rather than for itself.

This has got nothing to do with our attitudes to Europe. We're in Europe, want to be in Europe, and will always be in Europe. We want as close a connection with other European countries as we can have. We just don't want to be governed by the dysfunctional bureaucratic machinery other countries seem prepared to accept.

That leaves the issue of the single market and customs union. I think we should be leaving these too. We don't want to be in the EU but we don't want to be shadowing the EU in something which is like the EU but not quite as good. That means we need to be able to do our own thing, including to strike our own trade deals, which means we need to be out of the whole enterprise.

My hope therefore is that the UK cabinet's meeting at Chequers on Friday continues to push for a relatively hard Brexit, and to retain the option of a no deal if the EU doesn't want to negotiate appropriately, which should include reviewing what monies we owe in our separation agreement. Importantly, all of this needs to be dealt with now, rather than left over to the transition period.

I also hope HR focuses on the opportunities of Brexit. -The fairly limitless supply of cheap and well qualified labour from the rest of Europe and elsewhere has, I think, meant that firms here haven't invested in their people or their people supply chains in the way they should have. We've now got no choice, we do need to invest, rapidly, smartly and creatively. Or we won't have all the people we need. That's going to be hugely challenging but it will still basically be a good thing to happen to us.

I look forward to more, and I hope you'll follow my blog posts and tweets, next Thursday. I'll be writing them as apolitically as I can manage!

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