I don’t know about you, but for me the referendum vote can’t come soon enough. It’s not that I am overly excited about the result, rather than it will be a chance to get back to normal and start talking about a much wider range of issues that affect the business community and economic development rather than discussions being completely dominated by a single issue. You could be forgiven for wondering how much Government is going on at the moment and what the implications of that will be.
The majority of members of the Chamber of Commerce and the Initiative have expressed a strong desire to see victory for the “Remain” side, for a variety of reasons, principally because of what they fear would be a long period of uncertainty whilst new trading arrangements with Europe were put in place.
At the same time there are plenty of other business folk who say we would be better off if the “Leave” camp were successful. They talk positively and optimistically about the opportunities that would present themselves.
Whichever way the vote goes, I think the campaign has been particularly unhelpful for businesses on either side of the argument since it has degenerated into name calling and worse. The Chamber and Initiative are apolitical and support no specific party. However, we do like certainty, to know who is in charge and who we are dealing with. A Conservative victory at the last election at least gave us a single party Government, but it remains to be seen what state it will be in when the dust settles and it is hard to believe everyone will return to the Cabinet table as the best of friends.
In some ways a post-referendum strife riven Government will be the worst of all worlds. The Conservatives might limp on, there could be a leadership challenge and even an early election. None of that will be good for business, the economy or our standing in the rest of the world. We need strong leadership and a clear set of policies which indicate a properly worked out sense of direction. We don’t need further months of inter-necine warfare which benefits no one.
Meanwhile, closer to home it would be great to see near unanimity among our own Councillors to vote at the end of the month in favour of the Devolution Deal for the West of England. It will bring much needed funding for infrastructure and allow us to plan with confidence for the future.