In case you missed the news, last Thursday the UK voted to leave the European Union.

The ramifications of this decision are still largely unclear, particularly as it appears the Government doesn’t really have a plan for what happens next.

It’ll be a few years before the UK officially leaves the EU, meaning we face a long period of economic uncertainty.

As such, it’s difficult to know how digital businesses should respond at this stage. 

However I thought it would be useful to take a matter-of-fact look at some of the main issues we need to consider.

Perhaps the most obvious problem in the short term will be the impact on the value of the pound and how this affects the cost of digital services purchased in dollars.

As Dan Barker pointed out over the weekend:

Similarly, what should businesses do about the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)?

The new regulation comes into force in 2018, at which point we will likely still be part of the EU.

Businesses will therefore have to work towards making sure they are compliant, even though Brexit may ultimately change the way the law is implemented in the UK.

According to Nick Stringer, Digital Media Consultant specialising in Regulatory Affairs & Public Policy:

Organisations collecting and using personal information about citizens in Europe will need to comply, regardless of location.

But it is more than likely that the UK will apply the GDPR anyway, or bring in its own similar law. Either way organisations should continue to prepare for the expected change.

To give a broader view of the issues we need to think about as we drift aimlessly towards Brexit, here are the initial reactions from several other business people and marketers.

The entrepreneur’s view

London is very proud of its tech startups, but how will this sector be impacted by Brexit?

Matt Phelan, founder of 4Ps Marketing and The Happiness Index, was kind enough to offer his opinion.

"Overall I am sad we have left the EU but I am optimistic for the future. 

"Last week at Cannes Innovation I had over 50 conversations with entrepreneurs and CEOs from all over the globe ranging from the USA, Canada, China, South Korea, Brazil, Dubai, Switzerland & Norway. 

"At no point would any serious business in the EU not work with the people I spoke to in Cannes just because they are not part of the European Union. 

"I don’t underestimate the challenges ahead but at the same time I don’t underestimate the ability of entrepreneurs in the UK, EU and the rest of the world to work together.

"It is important that the referendum isn’t used as a mandate to spread hate.  

"Whatever happens over the next few years the UK will continue to be a beacon for creativity, human rights, gender equality, LGBT rights, animal rights, technology development, diversity, academic research and entrepreneurial thinking. 

"Entrepreneurs by default don’t see barriers, they only see opportunities."

The CMO’s view

My colleagues over at Marketing Week were quick to canvas opinion from several of the UK’s prominent marketers.

Mozilla’s global marketing director, John Bernard, offered his opinion on several key issues:

On marketers being prepared

"They are not. If you look at how the markets reacted and sterling against other currency markets, no one thought this was really going to happen.

"I don’t believe marketers were prepared for this eventuality."

On the impact to marketing budgets

"Over the next few years we are in the unknown on how this will affect marketing teams, and marketing budgets.

"But there are obvious things such as import costs, transporting goods and services, how much goods and services in Europe will cost to the consumer."

On the wider economy

"Here is the wonderful thing. We are a digital world, we are all online, we are a global economy. I actually think there will not a huge impact.

"We will continue to see investment in the UK because we are still trading with multiple countries, including in Europe.

"You will continue to see investment in the UK from global companies, this will not change anything." 

The sobering view

Finally, several people I spoke to were too shocked to provide comment, which is understandable.

Stephen Waddington, partner and chief engagement officer at Ketchum, was among those who felt it was too soon to speculate on the economic implications of Brexit.

However I’ve included his comments as I feel they quite accurately reflect the general feeling that I’ve encountered in London (cue comments about the ‘London bubble’).

Here’s what he had to say:

"We live in a democracy. The European Referendum decision is painful but it's done. No one has answers to the implications on borders, investment, markets, trade or jobs.

"Therein lies the critical weakness of the Leave campaign. It's going to take time to find solutions.

"We're also going to need time to find solutions to the pain of a country that's deeply divided along lines of age, politics, nations and regions."

David Moth

Published 27 June, 2016 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Henry Green, marketing at Online

I could see Brexit coming from far away, though in the last few days, I wasn't sure anymore about given Project Fear from the Remain campaign.

To me it is a matter of common sense. The EU is going downhill faster and faster. The Greek economy has been in trouble for years and all the EU is doing is asking for its money back instead of offering real solutions. How has the EU helped Greece recently? Admittedly, Greece has a lot to blame for itself.

Immigration. Free movement is a fundamental aspect of the EU and I think this is very useful. UK's economy is driven by migrants, especially London. Migrants are usually hard workers and claim little benefits. I doubt EU immigration is going to change here after Brexit. If it does, it is going to spell economic disaster. I guess most Brexiteers voted because they want to see this immigration cut down.

Where I blame the EU here is to allow immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa to come here. Many are not genuine asylum seekers. The EU cannot be a sponge to mop up the rest of the world. These immigrants don't want to integrate EU society as well. It hampers efforts to help genuine asylum seekers from Syria. Imagine if we could funnel our resources to really help these people who have lost everything? Why don't rich Middle East countries, especially the vast Saudi Arabia, take up more of these immigrants? They share the same religion for a start. No, they prefer the soft West who bend over backwards for them.

The EU is plagued by weak and indecisive leadership at the top (Merkel, Junker, ECB...) who have avoided taking difficult decisions regarding non-EU immigration, Greece's economy and overall economic recovery.

To control such a vast and disparate territory like West, Central and Eastern Europe, you need to rule with an iron hand but also to produce positive results to keep everyone in.

Brexit is not the culmination of this weak leadership, but the start of the end of the EU within the next few years. Watch this space.

UK is the first out. I predict a bright future for it once it goes over the coming period of uncertainty and instability and when the EU starts becoming affected by uncertainty over its future.

The people have voted. Dithering, trying to reverse a democratic decision, plotting coups and all only serve to hurt this country more. It is now time to accept the results and move forward, not back. That's the only way to become successful now.

We should unite together, stop talking down the UK's economy and show optimism for this country which once ruled half the world.
Firm leadership is needed now more than ever.
20 years of EU rule cannot wipe away hundreds of years of success and self-determination.

12 months ago

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