Politicians are too far removed from business reality
Throughout the Brexit negotiations I have been stunned at the lack of understanding by politicians about how the real world works. They have been wrapped up in arcane voting practises and focused on party unity rather than taking any notice of the predicament into which they have plunged business and industry.
The people running this country have displayed a worrying lack of understanding and little comprehension of how the food supply chain works. They have continually failed to listen to what they are being told by business and industry and, if this continues, I suspect we will have turbulent times ahead.
We have had a number of examples recently where industry has been telling officialdom that a solution designed to suit their political challenges simply won’t work. The issue around Health Marks is one that immediately springs to mind.
This practice of officialdom in the UK not listening to industry is not confined to our own sector.
The ‘solution’ we have been given by Government to have three health marks, with Abattoirs having to decide which market their meat is going to and therefore which stamp to use is bordering on the ridiculous. It clearly demonstrates that the officials and politicians have no concept of how the carcase might get split-up or, indeed, how the export markets work. They have also demonstrated no understanding of the timescales needed to make changes despite having conducted a consultation and gathered evidence.
This practice of officialdom in the UK not listening to industry is not confined to our own sector. Discussions with the CBI and other international companies across multiple sectors suggest that they are equally frustrated and have the same concerns.
If you look at some of the more successful trading nations around the world it is quite apparent that there is much more collaboration between industry and government. They work as one to get the best deal for the country. When their officials come to the negotiating table they fully understand what they are trying to achieve and how concessions may impact on businesses. They also maintain a constant dialogue with industry about how the negotiations are going.
To achieve that kind of co-ordinated trade negotiation in the UK is going to require a fundamental change in attitude by government and officials, otherwise we will flounder in the big, wide, post-Brexit world.
I am constantly hearing that, to be successful after Brexit, we will have to do things differently, but I see no evidence that our civil service and politicians think that this change applies to them. We have seen our parliamentary system handcuff itself into failure by sticking to its traditional ways of operating; and, at the same time, we are seeing the vast majority of our officials wanting to carry on with their same old ways. We must all change.