Countdown to Brexit: Simon Browning, Managing Partner at UHY Hacker Young

With the countdown to Brexit quickly ticking away, Business Link Magazine invites a select number of the region’s business leaders to offer their thoughts. Here Simon Browning, partner in charge of UHY Hacker Young’s Nottingham office, offers his thoughts.

More than 28 months have passed since the UK voted to leave the European Union. So why is it taking so long for the government to reach a deal? Previously, these sorts of negotiations would be left to the experts. But public scrutiny – particularly on social media – makes the task much more difficult as there appears to be an effort to please everyone.

However, this is clearly not feasible. Unfortunately, with any sort of negotiation there has to be compromise; we simply cannot have our cake and eat it.

So much uncertainty surrounding Brexit is causing issues in a number of areas. For example, large construction projects appear to have slowed down and the overarching ambiguity leads to significant investment decisions being delayed and deferred. The retail and hospitality sectors are also repeatedly facing huge challenges, although I don’t see these being specifically related to Brexit.

Perhaps most surprising is the continued volume of corporate finance deals that are taking place. One might have expected the uncertainty to result in a contraction. But if anything, the opposite has happened.

One theory is that the Brexit deadline is driving people to complete transactions ahead of time and fundamentally, good businesses will continue to change hands and attract investment – although there is the possibility of a slowdown in 2019 if transactions have been accelerated.

Will we see some sort of deal before deadline day? I sincerely hope so. I don’t believe people and businesses (on both sides of Brexit) will be able to cope with the fallout of a ‘no deal’ and the likely negative economic consequences.

Even with a deal though, one of my main concerns is people’s expectations that a deal will resolve the uncertainties before March 2019 and we’ll know exactly what the roadmap looks like. There will be so many significant points still to resolve during the transition period – assuming we get one – and unfortunately, we will encounter another period of uncertainty while the finer details are negotiated and ironed out.