Covid-19 AND Brexit

Businesses, and indeed stock markets, hate uncertainty. Sadly, there is no doubt that 2020 has been full of uncertainty at every stage. And whilst the main focus, for very obvious reasons, has been on Covid-19 and all the trading and other ramifications that that has brought with it, it has not been the only source of major disruption this year.

Ever since the Brexit referendum very nearly four and a half years ago, this topic has both dominated the media -almost to obsession – and created huge uncertainty and massive extra costs for almost every business. These costs will only escalate further in 2021 whatever Brexit agreement may or may not be reached. In January, and even February, this year all the focus was on Brexit as the clock was ticking and we were rapidly running out of time to find a solution. However, since the pandemic was sprung upon the world the main focus of politicians, businesses, and individuals, not to mention the obsessive media, has been focused almost entirely on firefighting the most immediate and destructive threat that is Covid-19.

However, now that we are in the final month of the year, the focus is changing back to Brexit again for two main reasons. Firstly, along with the news that the vaccines are starting to be rolled out in the fight against Covid-19, comes hope that there is the realistic possibility that 2021 will start to return to a semblance of normality in every possible way. Secondly, in the typical negotiating style that we have all come to expect of Governments around the world, the total lack of decision making means that there is now only a matter of days left to agree a Brexit deal, or both sides will cause lasting damage to their economies by leaving without a deal. As I write this on Monday there is still no deal, but negotiations are going down to the final moment – again. It may be that some form of deal is achieved at the last possible moment but, even if it is, it will undoubtedly continue to cause many challenges for businesses in 2021.

2020 then has not so much been about jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire, but more about having to negotiate between exceptionally hot and destructive fires that have erupted from time to time, and having to chose how best to ensure that your business gets burnt as little as possible. Force majeure events are usually defined as certain acts, events, or circumstances, beyond the control of the parties, and both Covid-19 and Brexit can effectively be described in that way but, nevertheless, every business has had to cope with them as well as all the normal challenges that might usually be expected.

From all of this it is clear that any business, whether small or large, must face new challenges on a continuous basis. Many of these challenges can be predicted as they are the obvious ones faced by all businesses, especially growing ones. However, there will always be additional, unexpected, and even totally unpredictable challenges, and 2020 has been perhaps the best example of this that any of us can remember.

To continue with the fire theme, for startups and early stage businesses, 2020 has certainly proven to be a baptism of fire and demonstrated beyond any doubt that entrepreneurs need a fire in their belly and a very clear focus in order to succeed. However, the real lesson is that those that have been forged in this way are stronger and more resilient than others. One thing that is sure is that we have all learned very many useful lessons during 2020 but every year will bring new challenges and new lessons to learn.


in British English


to prosper or cause to prosper vigorously and rapidly