Waves of change – uncertainty continues to rule after snap General Election

Jun 26th 2017

Following the third major vote in the past 12 months, the UK is no closer to having the “strength and stability”, made much of by the Conservative General Election campaign, has now been replaced with “humility and resolve”.

Despite initial polls indicating that Theresa May was likely to get the parliamentary majority she was looking for, this ebbed away in the run up to the actual election day, leaving us now with a government whose victory is technical rather than workable, and failing to nail down support from the DUP, their one chance to shore up that weakness.

The Queen’s Speech of 21st June was light on any of the more controversial elements of the Conservative Manifesto (which was notably absent from the Conservative website on the morning of the speech), and had nothing concrete to add about commitments to the food and drink sector, merely some non-specific commitments to help trade as well as support for exporters in particular.

Implications for the future direction of Brexit are notable, and every move hereafter will be under increased, intense scrutiny.  Even after one day of talks, UK Brexit Secretary David Davis has been accused of weakness by agreeing to the EU’s preferred timetable for talks, that puts the details of our departure and disentanglement from the union ahead of how we will continue to trade thereafter, rather than the parallel talks originally given as the UK’s preferred method.  Everything, however, serves to remind of important points that seem to keep being forgotten – there are two sides to the negotiation, and we are but one of 28 parties, 27 of which have goals and objectives that may conflict with our own.

What has become clearer, however, is that unless something changes fast, uncertainty and changeability are going to be strong forces in our future, both short and medium term.  In such an environment, investment will be harder to come by (however much it is needed) and the cost of increased risks will work their way into many areas, of which food is at particular risk, not just from import costs increasing, but also reduced access to the workforce needed to keep food businesses going.  Until these issues are addressed, and ways forward decided upon, foodservice businesses, like those in many other industries reliant on imports, exports and imported workers, will need to do all they can to keep efficiencies high and costs low.