On a recent business trip to London I had the opportunity to meet with several PR agency leaders and hear their strong opinions about the potential risks and benefits of Brexit. That was prior to the vote that resulted in the decision that Britain would leave the European Union. Now the question becomes what the implications of that decision are for strategic communication initiatives that have a European focus. Should the UK continue to be a target within such programs? Should the emphasis shift away from Britain and toward France, Italy or Germany, countries where the U.S. already is concentrating intense diplomatic activity to strengthen relations? Should we as communicators affirm our solidarity with our British friends by sustaining initiatives and communication program expenditures in the UK?
Of course, all programs are different and the priorities and goals of each campaign will determine the ultimate answers to these questions. But for now, it is important to remember that Great Britain remains a vibrant and healthy economy, especially as described by the agency leaders I met. Great Britain is the EU’s second largest economy followed only by Germany. Its imports from the EU top $380 billion making it a market few multinationals in Europe or elsewhere would care to lose. And while its influence in the EU may wane as a result of the referendum, its global significance may change only slightly if at all. Strategically, the UK remains a vital partner and a force to be reckoned with especially since the UK continues to be a leader in NATO, a member of the G-7 and of the G-20, Brexit notwithstanding.
Especially here in the U.S., Brexit opens possibilities heretofore thought unlikely if not impossible. Britain could, as some economists have posited, be invited to join NAFTA. Britain’s economic strength merged into an alliance that already represents $20 trillion in combined GDP is a formidable consideration. The global financial capitals of London and New York could become even stronger through closer economic cooperation and engagement made possible by Britain untethering itself from Brussels-based restrictions. And the practical reality that at least two years of negotiations will now unfold during which the UK remains a functional member of the EU all combine to mean Great Britain remains greatly important.
Our own collaborations with UK partner firms and the programs we mutually have underway are not slated to change. These programs have British businesses and citizens as their audience targets and marketing objectives that remain necessary to achieve. Even as the details of Brexit are hammered out, Britain will continue to function as it always has and its market will continue to be appealing. One example, new car sales in the UK reached record levels in 2015 and more than half those sales were of German cars. So even those EU leaders who might feel a desire to punish the UK for its decision to leave will almost certainly also hear demands for pragmatism from businesses within their own nations.
As communication professionals, our ability to influence global economic and diplomatic policy is tenuous at best. We are, however, in a unique position to set the tone and example for reasoned discourse and cooperative behavior. If in some small way, our continued alliance with our British partners and the renewed dedication to our UK initiatives shows that the future includes a viable and vibrant Britain, then we will have made a meaningful contribution to the post-Brexit world.