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Brexit means Brexit but what does it mean to you? - Dr Katerina Kolyva

Brexit means Brexit but what does it mean to you? - Dr Katerina Kolyva


On Tuesday 22 November, we hosted an insight seminar with Dr Katerina Kolyva on what Brexit means to businesses.

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie…

The best way through Brexit is to share the love. What that means is not just the maintenance of existing partnerships with European contacts and businesses, but building and bolstering them in the face of political uncertainty.

“The EU is much more than a pure business contract. It is a cultural contract. There has been a huge emotional response because we are taking something away. It is like a divorce,” the political scientist Dr Katerina Kolyva told a select gathering of Chief Executives and HR professionals at a Thewlis Graham influencers’ breakfast in Central London. “They are upset. It falls to us to maintain cooperation.

“We have to go back and say, I still love you, I want you. It is important to strengthen that narrative, to create a positive narrative, to reiterate that half the country was not in favour of leaving the EU.”

The cultural optimism of the EU has been punctured and the UK is now viewed differently. Populism is rising across Europe. Against this backdrop, it will be hard, but is vital, that civil society remains focused on European cooperation.

Dr Kolyva, a senior executive in strategy and change and Executive Director designate of the Council of Deans of Health, suggested that keeping focused on the form of change would provide opportunities for innovation. “There is no clear plan and this puts us in a position to influence agendas through effective debate.’

She showed how civil society is filling the gaps in the Brexit narrative: “There are already books on the market from academic, economic, and media perspectives. There is even an Enid Blyton spoof, Five on Brexit Island. The new Design Museum is launching with a European living room in response to Brexit. The poem, the film, the song – they are all coming.”

What does Brexit mean for businesses?

For businesses and organisations, there would be no immediate changes, but forewarned is forearmed. The King’s Fund has identified five areas in which Brexit will impact on healthcare: staffing, access to treatment abroad, cross border cooperation, regulation, and funding and finance. For the breakfast attendees, polled about their main concerns post-Brexit, the primary concern was the incoming and outgoing migration of EU professionals.

The secret to addressing that uncertainty was to build and extend cooperation, even if informally or bilaterally, Dr Kolyva said. Strengthening the narrative is an investment and it is important to join European networks while maintaining the dialogue around the details of Brexit at home.

All those managing, working in, or providing support services for, the healthcare industry, should fully assess how a hard Brexit would impact their partnerships.

We are potentially heading for a costly and protracted period of negotiation, and some sectors like SMEs and universities are already feeling the pinch.

How might we plan the break-up with Europe so that, even as the partners are planning the divorce, they are ensuring the children they’ve created are loved, protected, and continue to grow and to thrive?

While there was much humour to be had from the vogue for Brexit, and the speculation it has led to since June - most recently in the light of the American Presidential election, it was important to remain focused on the main questions.

Businesses and member organisations need to get across all the information that is out there. Don’t rely on the press for an objective view,” Dr Kolyva advised. “The decision about the single market is the key to any future model, and that is a people, goods, and services market. We need to tap into informed sources and ask not just how Brexit could impact the big picture, but what effect it will have, for example, on the experience of, and financial impact on, staff.”

Before the influencers’ breakfast, a poll of attendees showed that the preferred model for the new European relationship was that of Norway, but Dr Kolyva suggested the quiescent role of a small nation might not suit the UK. To add to the complications, the Swiss model was too volatile, and the bespoke Canadian model had taken seven years to agree. “We don’t have that amount of time.”

Dr Kolyva added: “The way we are sitting in this room, the way we respect each other’s space, the food we are eating, all of it is enshrined in EU legislation. This makes positive transitional arrangements a business priority. Our partners and our staff need to feel secure at a time of change.”

Drawing the breakfast to a close, Sarah Thewlis of Thewlis Graham Associates, said there was much that recruiters and their clients would need to think about in the intervening months. “We have now got Europe-Lite,” she said, “And it feels a bit like being on a cliff edge.

“The people we are working for, and approaching, do not want to feel that they might fall off the edge at any moment. We need to move quickly to ensure that they can step back from that edge because we have to put the pieces in place as best we can, to protect them through that change.”

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We've have been providing executive recruitment services for over 30 years and have assisted organisations in hiring effectively during previous uncertainties, and we will continue to do the same throughout Brexit. If you’re looking for support with recruitment, please don't hesitate to contact us for specialist and experienced advice.