Since I last wrote this column two weeks ago the political wheel has turned faster than I can ever remember. The British people have voted to leave the EU, the Prime Minister has resigned, and the pound has lost 15 per cent of its value. The fact that the main opposition party seems to be in meltdown has been relegated to the inside pages of newspapers, so fast and furious are the developments.
Obviously the side-effects of this turmoil are not confined to our own area, but reverberate around the country, and to some extent the whole world, but I have been struck by the universal desire of business people I have spoken to in Ashford for as much stability as possible as soon as possible.
Much of the debate about our future outside the EU has concentrated on the trade deal we can obtain for exporting companies. This is indeed vital, but equally important is the need for companies to invest with confidence. Without this confidence decisions will be delayed, and consequently jobs will be lost.
I agree with the words of Jo James, the Chief Executive of the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, which is based in Ashford, when she says that “Businesses will want to see a detailed plan to support the economy during the coming transitional period, as confidence, investment, hiring and growth would all be deeply affected by a prolonged period of uncertainty.”
Of course none of this can happen until we have a new Prime Minister in place, with a new Cabinet appointed, including the appointment of someone to be the Secretary of State in charge of the negotiations with the EU. As a remain campaigner myself, I welcome Theresa May’s idea that this person should be someone who campaigned to leave, so that those who voted in the majority in the Referendum can be assured that their interests are being protected.
It is also good that officials in Whitehall have already been assembled in a special unit to work up the details of Britain’s negotiating position as fast as possible. This will give the new Prime Minister a set of tools to work with, which will also stop unnecessary delays.
The momentous nature of the decision taken on June 23rd will only become apparent over time. It will take years for the full implications to sink in, but solving the problems needs to be done much faster.