Why Brexit could actually be Brilliant, by a Remainer
It’s a tough time for us Remainers. At the time of writing, it would seem we are very much past the point of no return as far as potentially restoring the old status quo goes. Whether we as a nation Remain or Leave, with or without a deal, it is becoming increasingly apparent that we are likely to see big changes in the social, political, economic and legislative environment over the coming months. Businesses have been struggling to forecast and plan for the future. We are set to see potentially huge interruptions in supply chain, staffing and prioritisation of services. It all seems very scary, and none of us voted for any of it.
However, as I was poring over the headlines the other day, sweating as profusely as a walrus that’s accidentally washed up in the Bahamas (an analogy that seems worryingly plausible now, given the state of things), I was surprised when someone very close to me made a suggestion that suddenly changed my entire perspective.
“Looking at it one way,” he said, pondering from beneath his characteristically majestic eyebrows, “We’re entering a new frontier.”
At that, I blinked blearily upwards from the bluish glow of my phone screen and felt my entire world view shift.
If the papers are to be believed, we are indeed about to enter a new Wild West for businesses in the UK. Every man for himself. Survival at the fore. Us against Them, although I’m not sure anybody even knows who Us and Them are these days. I used to be very frightened by this – the uncertainty of a new order, the harsh competition that it could place us all under – but until I heard those words, I realised that I hadn’t considered the opportunities for Responsible Capitalism that Brexit may also represent.
A lot of us, at the moment, have a great many causes close to our hearts. The world is in a precarious position, and there are many areas that we’ve been crying out to the Government and to massive Corporations to fix – plastic waste, climate change, lack of upward mobility, urban and rural decline. We’ve written disgruntled columns in The Guardian, we’ve voted time and again and been pipped to ever narrowing majorities by belligerent xenophobes, we’ve applied the tried and tested route of peaceful protest, and it isn’t working. The answer, this time, may actually be to beat right-wing Consumer Capitalism at it’s own game.
Looking at it this way, rapidly unfurling before us is perfect opportunity for the socially and environmentally conscious to grab Capitalism by the you-know-whats, and use its existing structure to actively create a world we desire. Big business in the UK is in a state of panic. Small business entrepreneurs that are adaptable, versatile and tuned-in to the demands of the consumer, can take advantage of this.
We know there is an as yet unprecedented demand at the moment for conscientious initiatives. Environmentally friendly, socially conscious, LGBTQAI+ inclusive. These are all issues that many of us have taken to our feeds, and the streets, to show our support for over the last few years and beyond, yet the response we’ve seen from the establishment has been minimal at best, condescending at worst. Hundreds of thousands of us have been signing petitions every week to put pressure on companies and the government to adapt, to be more conscientious, to meet the ethical demands of the wider public.
Large corporations are scrambling to adapt both to Brexit and to changing consumer demands, but making rapid changes to the lumbering behemoth of a multi-national corporation takes a long time and has to overcome a lot of resistance from within and without. Local start-ups do not have this problem – and this is why we could potentially do very well out of a Brexit-related recession and help a lot of people out, to boot.
There is proof that recessions can be profitable. In the Mid-2000’s, which, as we all remember, were pretty bloody awful in terms of economic optimism, a humble DVD-by-Post service was plodding along, competing with Blockbuster Video (remember them?) in an entertainment industry set to witness massive decline when the recession hit many moons ago. However, by identifying a gap in the market that was literally caused by consumers not having much cash to spare on DVDs, now-entertainment-giant Netflix managed to attract a colossal three million more subscribers by the close of 2009 (Entrepreneur.com). How did they do this? They identified a new area of demand created by the recession, and dutifully provided. With cutting edge technology at the forefront, Netflix was able to offer a far cheaper subscription package than traditional cable and satellite TV services, with equal, if not greater, entertainment and convenience value.
For an even simpler example, Wilkinson Sword used to – you guessed it – actually make swords, until that wasn’t really a thing any more. So they adapted. On this particular angle, I rest my case.
So with this in mind, I raise you this – Entrepreneurship is today’s most effective form of activism.
If you want to see changes in contemporary Capitalism, take an area that you feel strongly about, and start a business to address that problem in a way that’s affordable for everyone. I want to see an independent zero-waste grocery shop on every high street, I want to see consultants ensuring staff everywhere are treated and paid fairly, I want to see affordable counselling for mental health all over the place. Independent cosmetics companies rejecting animal testing. Self employed interior designers, engineers and architects championing sustainability. The list goes on – the demand is there and the opportunities are endless.
At the moment, you can get loads of free help through Universal Credit with self-employment, including additional funding, small business loans and a ton of free support and guidance. Anybody can do this – Rising Sun Careers Consultancy Ltd probably wouldn’t exist without it. I don’t know what will happen to this after the 31st October as it’s paid for through the European Social Fund, so if you are considering self employment, I suggest you act now while it’s still available.
With the way everything’s being framed in the papers, it’s easy to envision that we’re being sucked voraciously into some kind of apocalyptic future where we all sit together in the workhouse lamenting for simpler times, while pulling apart bits of rope like Oliver Twist. As much as I am certain that our Etonian Overlords would love to see this happen, it’s important to remember that this kind of catastrophic thinking, as anybody as familiar as I am with Anxiety will know, gets us absolutely nowhere. Perspective, on the other hand, does.
The Dickensian nightmare is not inevitable. Show them what Taking Back Control could really mean.
And you know where I am when you’re looking to make your first hire ;)