An Open Letter to Theresa May

An Open Letter to Theresa May

Having run a business for 25 years, I consult on a wide range of business issues.  This requires me to help businesses create sustainable strategies, make difficult decisions and resolve complex or so-called “wicked” problems. I decided to use my knowledge, skills and experience to offer some advice to Theresa May on the incredibly “wicked” problem of Brexit.  Here is my 2nd open letter to our Prime Minister, in the hope that it inspires others to action.  You are invited to sign the open letter via Google Drive and we intend to present the letter to No 10 on Wednesday 27th February.

Dear Prime Minister Theresa May,

I write to offer my unconditional advice and support to the persistent and chronic problem of Brexit, which continues to baffle and befuddle the brightest minds on the planet, whilst the vast majority of the population are bored to death with the topic.  I will only look at business here, having already written to you on the subjects of strategy, negotiation and conflict via Newsleaf.

Uncertainty avoidance

It must by now be apparent to you that many businesses are starting to plan around Brexit rather than be led by it.  Businesses are rational economic systems for the most part and they do not suffer uncertainty and obfuscation gladly.  UK multinationals have been very patient by and large.  Some have even rescinded decisions to help maintain confidence in the UK as a place to do business.  Over the years I have worked for Unilever, Lloyds of London and Virgin.  Unilever reversed a decision to relocate to the Netherlands, presumably under pressure from Government.  Lloyds have hedged their bets by relocating to Brussels.  Virgin have maintained their commitment to the UK for the most part, although I understand they have chosen not to start a few ventures here in the last two years.  However, I am aware that many companies are now reviewing their commitment to locating in the UK in the wake of tariffs and inconveniences raised by Brexit.

Leave Means Leave …

The list of companies who have either left the UK or are making plans to leave is breath taking.  You clearly understand that we live in a world of producers and consumers.  Without taxes and other benefits produced by larger companies, public service cuts are inevitable, with the Brexit bill currently running at £100 billion per year, some three times our club exit fee.  As a Conservative, you will clearly understand that this money has to come from somewhere.  I confidently predict it will come from public services, the young and pensions via a number of measures.  Paradoxically, many of the people who voted for Brexit will be most affected by these measures, although they are unlikely to notice these changes until some years after the decision has been made if Brexit happens.

Brain drain

A further point to note in this list is that the vast majority of the companies mentioned here are what I call “Brain Based Enterprises” rather than “Brawn Based Industries”.  We have entered the 4th industrial age, where information and intelligence are the currencies of sustainable advantage.  In such an age, companies can relocate their brains much more easily than when their assets were located geographically e.g. in the industrial or agrarian ages.  I predict that the UK will continue to experience a brain drain under Brexit, with the effect that we lose our grip on high technology, STEM and other brain reliant industries.  Britain in 2025 may become a nation of nail bars, kebab huts and coffee shops, but without the income to support such enterprises. My local coffee shop already reports a 50% decline in turnover since October 2018 and the money supply in the streets is drying up.  The word recession hangs heavy in the air amongst small business owners that I meet.

I recommend that you evaluate your current Brexit deal against No Brexit at all, across a basket of factors: Economic, Social, Technological, Political, Legal and Environmental.   Take it to Parliament if only to save your party against further catastrophic damage.  If you need an endorsement, take that decision back to the people in a non-binding blessing or “People’s Vote”.

You must act quickly.  Further delay will be met by further relocation decisions.  I am a chemist by background and these decisions are what a chemist would call “irreversible reactions”.  In other words, once a company has committed to a course of action, most will not attempt to reverse it.

Your leadership will ultimately be judged by the legacy you leave in the history books.  Take courage and cancel Article 50 now.  This is your binary choice:

  • Continue with Brexit and you may as well let James Goddard run the country.  You will go down in history as the woman who destroyed your party and the country in one move
  • End Brexit and you will have the majority of the country behind you.  You may even save your party from oblivion.  Unlike Margaret Thatcher, you will be known as “the woman who turned”.

All the best,

Peter Cook

We intend to deliver the letter to No 10 Downing Street on Wednesday 27th February at 16.30