“No-Deal” = Ideological Insanity

I spent nearly a decade as a  Director of Scotland’s leading Business Continuity Consultancy. We were working with clients from BAE, to Shell, to numerous Local Authorities, to small firms who made garden sheds, to Water Utilities, to the NHS – trusts and central, to Housing Associations, businesses across the UK and Europe. 2005 onwards was a great period to be doing this work as the Civil Contingencies Act had recently been enacted. I’m writing this as I can see *no way* at all that businesses and organisations in the UK can possibly prepare for a No-Deal Brexit. It’s just too big, too nebulous, and most importantly too permanent. Guiding an organisation to plan for disruption *always* assumes that the disruption is temporary. It may last days or even weeks but it is not a permanent change, unlike that being proposed by the UK Government under the guise of “No-Deal”.  If “No-Deal” happens it is an immediate and complete structural change to 40+ years of working.  Almost ever aspect of the way a business operates will require to be changed, quite literally  overnight.   All this is to be done while there is no knowledge whatsoever about the macro environment  the business/organisation operates in.   We ran many,  many, scenario planning exercises for our clients. We had sectors of  their workforce incapacitated by Avian Flu,  we had extended power cuts, we had armed terrorist activity and we helped clients plan how  to manage all of these disruptions. 

Here’s a few of the high level questions which are needed to plan for any  “No Deal” scenario.  Will ‘planes be able to fly?   Will imports and exports be slowed down?   What medicines will be available?   If trucks/haulage is snarled up (as seems probable)  how many extra trucks/vehicles are there to move goods (food?) around the UK?  Are there sufficient drivers?  How will fuel supplies be affected?   How long will this last?  (clue: It’s a sudden, violent and total structural change to the UK economy, so for planning purposes it’s not a disruption, it’s permanent).  How long will a stockpile last?   What’s the security risk for my business/organisation if we’re holding/stockpiling some commodity which suddenly becomes highly valuable  (food, medicine).  Will power (National Grid) still operate fully?  What risk is posed to nuclear generation?  What’s the plan for a run on a bank if the £ Sterling collapses?   Everything in this paragraph is high level, go down any of the branches in it and there’s a myriad of  sub-branches which each need careful consideration and planning. 

The only precedent type  of cross-sector all encompassing event which might be even vaguely comparable  in term of the effort and planning which was put in to mitigating it is the Y2K software events.   Y2K however had millions of  man-hours of activity spent across the globe,  years in advance, to mitigate it.  “No Deal” has few global support mechanisms.

I’m glad I’ve retired because despite having worked with the main boards of directors of many businesses and organisation I just haven’t got a clue how *anyone* could establish a decent operating plan for “No  Deal”.   It’s just not possible.   

“No-Deal” is ideological insanity.  I’ll happily talk this through with any Politician who believes it is possible for a business/organisation to a) Prepare for it and b) Survive it. 

Is this how it’s going to end?

Last week, for the first time in history, the Tory UK  Government was found to be in contempt of Parliament.  Yet there’s been no sanction.  Oh sure, you can talk about the disgrace and the dishonour – but – so what?  What  if the Tory UK government doesn’t care about grace and honour?   The  available evidence suggest this is quite possible.  Time after time the Tory UK Government makes a promise or a statement only to U-turn or dissemble about the promise they made.  Check out the recent statements from David Mundell, Secretary of State for Scotland.  He’s said (along with Ruth Davidson, who must be oh so glad she’s on maternity leave) that he’d resign if N.Ireland was treated differently from the UK.  It seems it will be and they’re not resigning.

When you see Theresa May at the dispatch box in Westminster, well just watch her carefully.  She starts by being nervous but by the time she’s been there for an hour or so she’s far more confident. Sure she’s regurgitating cliches and lies. But she doesn’t care.  Eyes on the prize.  30-3-19 and she’s got Henry VIII and Civil Contingencies Act powers. That’s the prize, and damn the consequences.   Her Government was found in Contempt of Parliament last week and nothing changed.  Nothing happened to the Government. If you do something illegal or immoral and  there’s no consequences for you – well you’ll do it again. And again.  So why should we expect the Tories to change their behaviour now?   Everything else is smoke and mirrors.   The Irish Backstop, the fall in value of the pound, irrelevant when you’re playing a long game for the ultimate prize.

Today, Monday 10th Dec, she withdrew from holding a vote on her Withdrawal Agreement.  So what?  Delay. Obfuscate. Prevaricate. Procrastinate.  Eyes on the prize.   She simply needs to keep kicking that can down the road for another few working days.  Spend some time on pointless visits to the EU countries.  Remember, Parliament goes on holiday on the 20th December through to the 7th January. That’s at the end of next week.  Spend  this week ‘negotiating’ and there’s only one working week. before the holidays.  Crisis?  What crisis?  The Tory Government doesn’t seem to see one.   Nor does the Labour Party. Corbyn is AWOL, right at the time that the very foundations of democracy in the UK are being  shredded by a Tory Government who, it seems to me, know exactly what they’re doing.

The EU is not going to change anything about the Withdrawal Agreement – I’d bet my house on that.  So what’s Theresa May doing? Delay, obfuscate, procrastinate.  Eyes on the  prize.  Suddenly it’s January and a mere 11 weeks from Brexit.  Lie, cheat, prevaricate, procrastinate – will  still be going on.  And then we’ve run out of time and the  UK is out of the EU in the most catastrophic of ways.

If the Tories are no longer afraid of being in Contempt of Parliament – and Parliament has no sanction or  control over them, where on earth is this going to end? Right now, after last week and today’s events the catastrophe of ‘hard Brexit’ must be looking ever more likely.

Oh we can all rage and rant on twitter and facebook, and in blogs like this. But it’s bows and  arrows against the lightning (to mix metaphors).  The Tories are probably quite content that Brexit is still going to happen.  Newspapers can print what  they want.  The SNP can rage and call  her names.  Tick Tock.  Eyes on the prize.   I can’t see any way of stopping them.