In the aftermath of the UK’s decision to vote to leave the EU, I am struck by the extent of the analysis and commentary from every conceivable angle as to what will happen next. What, in short, is the result of Brexit?
Initially, I thought I had nothing of value to contribute to such a debate, although avid in my attention to the thoughts and opinions of others. Having read acres of articles on the subject, and listened to hours of interviews, however, my stance has changed, and I now firmly believe that I have as much to offer as any of them on this truly vexed (Vexit?) subject. So – here follows my thoughtful personal analysis of what Brexit means for the world of licensing, and indeed, the world at large. You’re welcome.
Nobody could have foreseen exactly what the voters would do on Thursday 23 June 2016. That is partly because the outcome depended upon how many voters actually turned up to the polling booths to place their vote in pencil, or indeed, pen. But, it depended even more upon which box they put their cross in. A cross in one of the boxes would have tended towards one result, whereas a cross in the other box would almost certainly have influenced the outcome in the other direction. And it depended more than anything else on how many people did one of those things or the other. The reasons why those people made their decisions to do one or the other were essentially private, unless they chose to tell someone. The people who stayed at home, on that day, or since, and whinged about what other people were putting on their forms were clearly failing to grasp one of the fundamental principles about how a voting system works in practice.
The first clue any of us had as to how the vote had actually gone was when it was announced. Prior to that, all the forecasts about the outcome were guesses about one of two possibilities. People who guessed that the outcome would be something other than it actually was got it wrong. People who guessed what the outcome would be and then bet money on that outcome and then got it wrong lost their money. A lot of those people were traders, and it wasn’t their money they were losing. People who bought foreign currency at a point when the outcome of the vote was uncertain and the exchange rate consequently varied got more, or possibly less, money for their pound, depending on whether the rate had gone up or down at the moment that they made their purchase, as a direct result of the uncertainty. They were equally uncertain as to whether they would have done better to wait until the following week, or whether they should have done it a fortnight ago. At the time that they actually depart for their holiday, they still won’t be sure what they ought to have done for the best. This will probably also still be true when they go on holiday next year.
The financial markets also responded to the Brexit vote. When the value of shares dropped, millions of pounds were wiped, or slashed or violently stripped from the on-paper value of the companies whose share prices had fallen. When the levels of those shares went up again, restoring some of the notional value that would not be crystallised until the moment in time that someone actually wanted to sell and buy them in real life, ( which they would have been well advised to do when the value was higher rather than lower), then they just rose, and a dramatic verb was not required. The net difference at the end of the trading day between the wiping and the rising represented the notional value of the shares in question which would remain the same overnight whilst the markets were not trading, until the following day when the same exercise resumed. The final value of the shares or pensions or other investments will not be definitively known until the person who stands to gain from them cashes them in and counts up how much money they get, which might be in twenty years time. By then, an asteroid may have struck Earth, wiping out many more things than the value of shares.
Personally, the vote will have some deeply affecting consequences. In a home where partners or spouses voted differently from each other, days, weeks and possibly months of bitter recriminations will follow, based on no clear understanding of whether, in the long run, it was better to have voted one way rather than the other, but based upon a deeply held conviction that whatever happens will be entirely the other person’s fault and they should have seen it coming. The phrase: “I blame it on Brexit” can effectively be used in most situations of frustration, from failing to renew the car insurance to finding that the milk has gone off. Decisions about which box-set to watch will quickly descend into an argument about Europe. Entire households will be able to quote the first and second names, and those of their partners and pets, of the key European leaders who will have any kind of influence over Britain’s economic well-being over the next two years, whereas previously the same households would have struggled to list the 27 other countries making up the EU or identify where they were on a map. They will never, however, know what Articles 1 – 49 say.
One final implication for day to day practice is the new approach that seems appropriate to take to all issues of future uncertainty, which constitutes an ever-present feature of the forward-looking licensing regime. To all questions beginning: “What will happen if /once /when…?” the proper response will always be: “It is just too early to tell at this stage, unfortunately”, with an air of regretful finality. A wide vocabulary of variables, including dust settling; air clearing; fog lifting and mist dissipating is constructive to any discussion of steps to be taken, and if in doubt, you should always insist that nothing is done at all until there is a new Prime Minister.
I have been very glad of the opportunity to participate in this bold, positive and constructive debate about getting a grip, and if you have any questions which arise out of this in-depth technical analysis, then may I say without hesitation that my answer will almost certainly be yes, or no.