EU Referendum: Setting our sails

Indy Hothi is a social activist who was selected to represent the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) at the 2015 One Young World Summit in recognition of his dedication to affecting change. He currently holds the position of Senior Economic Strategy Consultant at EY and has established a number of key diversity initiatives at the firm, including running successful Graduate Insight Days for black and ethnic minority students. 

I woke this morning with the realisation that the UK is setting its sails to leave the European Union (EU) – a victory for the Leave campaign (52% to 48%). Over 33.6 million people across the country voted, a turnout rate of 72.2%, the highest rate since the 1992 general election (77.7%). So what does this mean now? For me, it is absolutely crucial to accept the result and look to focus on the future of the UK. Below, I share some of my initial views as a young finance professional.

Implications

During the fierce campaigning, a number key themes have come to the forefront with concerns over immigration, access to education, health (NHS) and the housing market. Whilst these areas are a priority for many economies alike, the voting polls unmasked divisions across the UK with clear differences by age, social class and geographic region. Something which will come under increased focus, especially as nine regions across the UK voted to leave the EU with only Northern Ireland, Scotland and London settling on remain. 

Areas of focus

Action needs to be taken to address a number of issues raised during the referendum. I believe moving forward that a sustainable long-term plan needs to be put in place to ensure that the UK benefits from its new relationship with the EU and its wider place in the global economic landscape. Negotiating terms of its separation will be a crucial first step alongside proactive engagement with trading partners to signal that Britain is open for business.  Defining the future terms of trade and the UK’s approach to the movement of labour will require some level of compromise although I suspect negotiation strength may be hampered somewhat by the strong concerns voters have raised over immigration.

Closer to home…

The current focus on our relationship with the EU will change, the spotlights will soon be on our domestic policy and industry, to which we must have an answer. To combat divisions, future policies and investments must be developed with the aim of improving the economic and social circumstances of people across the whole country.  With devolved economic decision making already underway, this will need to be further boosted with a focus on balanced and inclusive growth. The UK will need to develop expertise and further support existing industries, from investment in digital skills & creative industries to the development of a manufacturing strategy; these are some of the building blocks which will ensure success.

A commitment to financial markets

One of the UK’s biggest drivers of growth is financial services; with the result, there is absolutely no time to look back, the markets wait for no man. I believe Government and industry will need to work proactively together to help the industry through short-term volatility and remind investors as to why the UK is one of the world’s leading financial hubs.  Clear answers will be needed around access to the single market and regulation quickly and effectively to protect the industry and ensure it continues to be a major driver of growth for the UK economy.

A balanced future

The UK is sailing through uncertain times both politically and economically. Businesses and citizens alike will be looking to the Government for clarity, security and commitment for a better future. I personally believe a commitment towards balanced growth across the UK is key towards unity domestically and will prove vital as the UK sets its sails in a new era of forging partnerships.