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Mitigating Brexit

Over the coming days we will publish a report on public sector spending and Brexit. A summary will be available on this site and the full report will be available by contacting greig@theguideconsultancy.com 

What the EU guidelines really say about Brexit

The posturing over Gibraltar looms large in the news but other important details have been missed by media commentators. Here are three examples:

1/ The European Council “will remain permanently seized” of Brexit and “update these guidelines in the course of the negotiations as necessary”. In other words, the Commission shouldn’t get ahead of itself and the Council will step in, if necessary, to change the negotiating guidelines at any time.

2/ The EU is worried about competition from a low-tax, low-regulation developed economy on its doorstep, so any deal offered by the EU will include restrictions on the UK that deliver “a level playing field” post-Brexit.

3/ The “unique circumstances on the island of Ireland” will mean a hard Northern Irish border will be avoided at all costs – it’s more likely the Irish Government will be responsible for customs arrangements for the whole island and the ‘hard border’ will be on the west coast of mainland Great Britain.

Government demands more cyber security from suppliers

Following criticism from the Public Accounts Committee, the Government will publish a newly updated Security Policy Framework in December, with the aim of “establishing a clear approach for protecting information across the whole of the public sector and delivery partners”. The Government will also ask suppliers to provide more details on the costs and performance of the services they deliver – which in turn means suppliers will increasingly find themselves under public scrutiny.

We don’t need no legislation

It’s widely accepted that Brexit will consume the Government’s legislative agenda. However, that does not mean its domestic policies are on ice. Instead, the Government will get businesses to do the things it doesn’t have time to create laws for. Whitehall will require companies supplying the public sector to meet an increasing array of new conditions as part of their contracts, with each one supporting a different element of the Government’s domestic social policy agenda. As well as being a cost-effective option (for the Government, at least), this approach allows Whitehall to get companies to deliver social change – without ever having to bring a Bill to Parliament. 

Cyber Essentials gets more, well, essential

The Government has confirmed it will require more of its suppliers to hold a Cyber Essentials certificate as a condition of doing business with the public sector. The requirement already applies to companies that handle sensitive data, but it will be rolled out to other private sector suppliers – and to companies in the supply chain of large firms that hold major public sector contracts.

The Government will ask for more women on boards

The Government continues to mitigate its funding issues by asking businesses to deliver its social policy agenda.

The Business Minister has just written to the 350 largest UK firms asking them to publish a break-down of staff by race and pay. Coming after the apprenticeship levy (which starts next week) and before a push to get more women on boards over the summer, this latest measure is part of the Government’s wider strategy of “social policy by procurement”.

Companies that supply the public sector are going to have to meet a growing list of criteria, beyond their core competence, if they want to win major contracts.

Institute of Direction

The IoD laid on an event looking at post-Brexit customs arrangements this week, which covered some of the same technical issues we’ve been highlighting for clients. Rules of Origin and Operational Customs Compliance will become increasingly familiar terms for manufacturers with an international trade or supply chain – and it’s worth looking at the different tariff arrangements (whether EU, FTA or WTO) for “finished” goods and “parts to be assembled”. The short and long of it is that many companies will still have an opportunity to work profitably through the new conditions, whatever they are.

Being industrious in the Industrial Strategy

Whether under EU or WTO rules, there are limits to what a modern Government can do in terms of ‘picking winners’. Measures that potentially benefit the whole economy – while still having a disproportionate effect in targeted areas – are easier to get through. That’s part of the reason why investment in skills and digital feature so heavily in the Industrial Strategy and why they will become ever more important in public sector procurement.

Softly does it

Even before Wednesday, the EU27 had started to take a slightly softer line on Brexit, with new emphasis on a ‘friendly’ and ‘constructive’ negotiation. That’s not to say talks will be easy, but we are coming towards the end of the pure bluster stage. Interestingly, there’s also a realistic chance that our interlocutors’ objectives could be a moveable feast, as growing economic, social and political problems on the continent take hold.

The real plan for #IndyRef2

Business leaders who run major operations in Scotland tell me they received a call from a Holyrood Minister shortly after Nicola Sturgeon announced plans for IndyRef2. The Scottish Minister wanted to sound out local business opinion on the prospect of another vote. That’s fair enough – what’s more interesting, is the Scottish Minister told the businessmen the SNP does not expect or want any vote to be held before Brexit is completed. This is a markedly different line to the one used in public.


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