Beyond the Headlines—Spinning Brexit

spinning-top-imageIn competing for our attention, newspaper headlines and television sound bites assault our senses, beckoning us with sensational breaking stories. At times, the news can emanate from someone’s posturing (defined as ‘behaving in a way that is intended to impress or mislead’).  An extreme case in point is the interminable cycle of this US presidential election and the unavoidable barrage of posturing and propaganda designed to influence voters.

Meanwhile, lobbying for one’s interests is appropriate and necessary.  Representing the interests of their members and industries is the primary purpose of trade associations and public affairs departments at most organisations. Thus a certain level of posturing is to be expected as organisations and individuals (including our kids and spouses!) push their agendas.

However, whether by design or default, the headlines sometimes lead people to adopt false assumptions. In forming opinions and making decisions about the UK in the face of Brexit, it is particularly important to look beyond the grabbing headlines to the details of the stories, and to consider how much weight to give to the spin of lobbyists trying to strengthen their negotiating positions.

Some recent troubling headlines indicate that “Banks Could Start Leaving London before Christmas” due to Brexit.  The stories feature the head of the British Bankers’ Association, the sector’s main lobbying body.  He says that banks have already started contingency planning in light of Brexit and could move chunks of their business. Their hands are “quivering over the relocate button.”  Meanwhile, such contingency planning is prudent and rational, and such posturing with the use of scare tactics is a tactic employed by lobbying bodies trying to get reactions that would benefit them.

Other headlines relay that the UK is “Out of Top Five Investment Sites Post Brexit”.  EY issued its Global Capital Confidence Barometer report based on a survey of 1,700 executives in 45 countries in August and September which found them concerned about geopolitical issues, such as the rise of nationalist governments worldwide and currency fluctuations, that make cross-border M&A more difficult. Because of Brexit fears, the UK dropped out of the top five locations for investments for the first time in seven years, trailing the US, China, Germany, Canada and France.  In light of Brexit this is not wholly surprising and EY does go on to say that in the longer term it expects the UK to bounce back as a destination of choice for M&A.

Later this week we anticipate some confusing headlines about our GDP. The UK is set to show the amount by which it outperformed pre-referendum forecasts when official growth figures for the crucial third quarter are published by the Office for National Statistics, with most economists expecting to find the UK grew by a robust 0.3% in Q3, and some even suggesting 0.4% expansion.  Such figures would be in stark contrast to earlier predictions by forecasters of zero growth or outright contraction.

The BELS team will continue to study and analyse developments, looking beyond the sensational headlines, with our eyes and minds open, alert to the posturing by those advocating certain agendas. We are committed to ensuring that our expat and alumni life scientists across the globe get a clear and current view of developments in the UK health & life sciences and why the UK continues to represent the third global super cluster for our industry today.

Nigel Gaymond  Executive Chairman, British Expats in Life Sciences