Don't make Brexit the scapegoat for our ills

Angus Dent
Posted by Angus Dent on 19-May-2017 09:39:58

Like the proverbial rabbit in the headlights, UK industry is in danger of becoming paralysed by Brexit and all the myth and uncertainty that has been created around it. Aided and abetted by some sections of the media, UK voters’ decision to leave the EU is blamed for everything ranging from skills shortages to lack of investment and, in the case of SMEs, for the reluctance of company proprietors to borrow to grow their businesses. If we continue to hide behind Brexit – frightened into believing we are about to fall off a cliff – there is a genuine danger that it will become a self-fulfilling reality.

How about if we ditch the paranoia and start to think of Brexit in terms of an opportunity?

The truth is that distractions like Theresa May triggering Article 50 and then calling a snap General Election will pass into the history books to be put into proper perspective by future generations. In the meantime, I would argue that the march of technology will leave a more permanent imprint on our prosperity and well-being than either of those two events.

Technology has already brought profound change to our lives. It is hard to believe that only 20 years ago there was no email and London was being terrorised by reckless motorcycle couriers ferrying sensitive documents across the capital. Today, I can deliver the same information using my laptop, tablet or smartphone. We now accept such technology as the norm and that type of change – business at the ‘speed of thought’, as Bill Gates put it – is certain to gather pace.

Nowadays we read about the onset of robotics and Artificial Intelligence and how this is going to threaten jobs in certain industries, including manufacturing. All it means is that the really skilled people of the future will be using their brains, rather than their hands, to control certain processes that were carried out manually. For a historical parallel you need look no further than Henry Ford who, in 1903, introduced the first production line. Two World Wars and much profiteering later, production lines are still found in just about every factory in the world – in other words, what was pioneering in its day remains a permanent fixture in manufacturing well over a century later.

When I read that skills shortages are holding back industry and that young people are not interested in a career in manufacturing (as in the latest annual report from The Manufacturer) I find myself asking why? We should be engaging with permanent change rather than concentrating on the headlines of the day which usually focus on passing change.

If investment and lending levels continue to fall, tomorrow’s entrepreneurs will remain in the shadows, lacking the cash and/or motivation to drive their businesses and our economy forward. We must let SMEs know that there is help available beyond the nervous banking sector and that there is quick access to finance available through the P2P sector that will enable them to fire up and grow their businesses. If temporary uncertainty is allowed to carry the day it will be a national tragedy –  an avoidable one, at that.

Topics: business lending, finance, fintech, lending, p2p, p2p lending, altfi, Borrowing, Brexit

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