Shaping the Future of Post-Brexit Britain
by Jasvir Singh
Posted: 23 Aug 2016
Two months have now passed since Britain voted to leave the EU, and the nation is still coming to terms with this seismic shift in our identity. Some of the imagery and rhetoric used during the referendum campaigning proved to be divisive, especially in terms of immigration and racial profiling, and there are obviously deep running social and political fault-lines in our country which we can no longer afford to ignore. However, we have voted to leave, and according to all of those in control of the fate of our nation, we must respect the fact that 'Brexit means Brexit'.
But what will that Brexit actually look like, and what can we do to shape the type of future that we all want for Britain?
In the immediate aftermath of the referendum, it became very clear that nobody was quite sure of what leaving the EU would involve or how it would be put into action. Neither the Government nor the Leave campaigners were prepared for a vote in favour of Brexit, despite the fact that the British electorate had been asked to decide on that very issue. There was an evident lack of leadership from the political world, creating a perception amongst the public that those entrusted with the stewardship of the nation were perhaps not best placed to have that onerous responsibility.
However, where some may see an absence of authority, others can sense a place of opportunity, and post-Brexit Britain is most definitely the latter. Times of flux and chaos allow new narratives to be established, and this is one such time. The fact that those who should be leading the nation seem to be having some difficulty in doing so means that others now have the chance to set the tone of the discussions which should be taking place over the coming months and years. If people want Britain to thrive and be a nation which always looks out for the common good, then they need to come forward and lead the debate.
The City of London is very well placed to play an important role in the discussions regarding our leaving the EU. As an international powerhouse, its influence extends far beyond Europe. However, if it is to participate in such discussions, it would be foolish not to take a more holistic approach towards society and see what can be done to allow everyone to benefit from the corporate world rather than just the very few. The protests against social and economic inequality have shown that there is great division between those who work in the financial sector and those who don't. By discussing how the City can take more ethically grounded decisions and allow that discourse to include dialogue with those who object to some of the more dubious approaches within the corporate world, we can develop solutions to broad societal issues and use it as a means of developing better relationships with foreign jurisdictions.
One example of how best to do this can be found by looking at the issue of tax avoidance. The Panama Papers have shown us how the tax system needs to be overhauled to ensure that greater revenue remains in the UK, revenue which can then be used to improve public services which are crumbling due to lack of investment. The corporate climate needs to shift from focusing on tax avoidance mechanisms to developing an acceptance of why paying a fair amount of tax is important for the future of business in Britain. It will be a challenging change to make, but not one which is insurmountable.
Given that there is unlikely to be funding coming to the UK from the EU for much longer, coupled with the risk of skilled and unskilled workers leaving the country en masse in search of better job prospects, the responsibility now lies with the City and others to ensure that Britain as a whole does not become poorer, be that professionally, financially or ethically. Work visa arrangements, foreign investment, trade agreements and 'passporting rights' - all of those will require the input of leading corporate entities and the City of London in negotiations if we are to get the best outcome for Britain.
Faith communities also have a role to play. The focus on helping those less fortunate than oneself, ensuring that all are treated equally with dignity and respect, and the retention of fairness at all times are concepts that are shared by all faiths. Their importance cannot be underestimated, especially when it comes to as great a constitutional change as leaving the EU. What faith communities can bring to the table in negotiations are stewardship and leadership which takes into account the needs of business whilst always keeping in mind the interests of their stakeholders and beneficiaries, namely British society at large. Faith communities occupy a unique position in Britain, and it is wholly appropriate for them to exercise their guiding influence at such a critical time for our collective future.With that in mind, faith communities and the corporate world should be looking to come together and develop ideas for what Brexit should look like, a Brexit which secures the financial well-being of the nation and a Brexit based upon strong ethical foundations to benefit people across the social, geographical and political spectrum.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of St Paul's Institute or St Paul's Cathedral.