The first, and possibly the most pressing issue, is what this decision tells us about the political landscape and the confidence – or lack thereof – that members of the Conservative party have shown in their leader during the past few months. Losing such an important argument surely suggests that it is time for David Cameron to resign his position. He was responsible for holding the referendum in the first place, so it is simply unacceptable to have done so and lost. But is there anybody who is ready and suitable to take his place?
Boris Johnson is no doubt being viewed as a prime candidate and he will likely take a huge amount of credit for the Leave vote, having spearheaded the campaign. George Osborne’s loyalty to Cameron and the Remain vote will mean he cannot be seen as an option, so perhaps Theresa May will become a central figurehead for the party.
Whatever the solution, it is clearly going to be a period of turmoil for the Conservatives and I would not be surprised if we see a vote of no confidence against the majority party in Parliament, leading to its dissolution and a general election. None of this will help public confidence and, in turn, the economy, which will surely falter even further during the next few months and years.
From a recruitment perspective, I am extremely concerned that jobs could be at risk as a result of a weaker economy and so much uncertainty. This will affect candidates, clients and the industry as a whole. More specific to my sector is the wealth of legislation that has been set by the EU which is now called into question. Will we still have to follow legislation such as Agency Workers Regulations and the Working Time Directive, which came about purely as an EU incentive? These questions and many more remain unanswered and will likely be quite low down the priority list when it comes to negotiating on EU law, which governs so many aspects of British life.
I am equally worried about what might happen to the EU workers who support so many sectors in the UK with their loyal and effective labour. Industries like agriculture, care and construction are all heavily staffed by non-British workers and these sectors rely on that manpower in order to thrive. While we have been reassured that people will not be ‘sent back’ to their home countries, we most certainly cannot expect that the same level of people from overseas will be entering the British workforce from now on.
This could force the closure of many organisations, from the small farms who are staffed by EU workers and cannot hire locally for the same rate of pay, to larger corporations and even the NHS, which would seriously struggle to find the right skills at an appealing cost without the current volume of workers from Europe.
Despite the many concerns I have about our future, I do believe there is no need to panic at this stage as it will be some time before we truly know the full ramifications of the vote. We now have two years of negotiations to determine the extent to which we remain part of the EU. In fact, it will surely take far longer than two years to plough through the raft of legislation that will need amending or creating in line with the vote to leave.
During this time it will be essential for our politicians and business leaders to unite to decide on the best actions for Britain’s future. The country has voted in favour of a detached, independent nation and now we must unite and avoid any further division within the country if we are to prosper in the way that the Leave camp has so confidently promised.
By Jo Sellick, managing director, Sellick Partnership