Post-Brexit Business Climate: KeepCalm& CarryOn Four communication and clarity tips for leaders as the dust settles on Britain’s EU vote
“The world is looking at the United Kingdom and asking: What on earth just happened? And those who lead the country are asking the same question.”
Friday started with a call from my daughter at 5 a.m. BST. Currently enjoying a well-earned holiday in New Zealand she had heard the results first and was calling to ask, “Are you OK?”. In the blink of an eye Google lookups changed from team results in UEFA Euro 2016 to Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. In fact, one of the highest search results cited last Friday was, “How to immigrate to Australia.” The world is looking at the United Kingdom and asking: What on earth just happened? And those who lead the country are asking the same question. Never has there been a greater coalition of the establishment than that assembled by Prime Minister David Cameron for his referendum campaign to keep the U.K. in the European Union. There was almost every Westminster party leader, most of their troops and almost every trade union and employers’ federation. There were retired spy chiefs, historians, football clubs, national treasures like Stephen Hawking and divinities like Keira Knightley. And some global glamour too: President Barack Obama flew to London to do his bit, and Goldman Sachs opened its checkbook. And none of it worked. The opinion polls barely moved over the course of the campaign, and 52% of Britons voted to leave the EU. I for one had underestimated the degree of demarcation between the two camps. I thought I had taken a poll of the London & European- based offices I have the honor to lead on Thursday. The majority of people were for Remain with two or three declining to respond. But then again, until Friday were we all in weren’t we? By sunset on Friday the facts were becoming clearer. We were anything but united. London and Scotland voted to stay in the EU, Wales and the English shires voted to get out. (Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already called a fresh vote on secession “highly likely.”) Some 70% of university graduates were in favor of the EU; an equally disproportionate 68% of those who hadn’t finished high school were against it. Londoners and those under age 30 were strongly for Remain; the northern English and those over 60 were strongly for Leave. An astonishing 70% of the skilled working class supported Brexit.
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