Mark Casci: Self-absorbed Brexit navel gazing is bad for business

File photo dated 2/7/2016 of a European Union flag in front of the Palace of Westminster.
File photo dated 2/7/2016 of a European Union flag in front of the Palace of Westminster.
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There is a great scene in the seminal political TV show The West Wing when two of the fictional White House’s senior staffers discover that a glacier has melted in Alaska.

Having quickly drawn up a rough plan as to how they would tackle such a seismic event, the chief of staff Leo McGarry says to his deputy Josh Lyman, “wait a second, do you not want to just pause and contemplate the fact that a glacier just melted?”, to which Josh replies “I would love to Leo, but a glacier melted so I need to go to work”.

Tim Buchan, the CEO of Zenith

Tim Buchan, the CEO of Zenith

So it is with the world of business.

After months, possibly even years of caution in the lead up to last summer’s referendum, firms are now quietly dealing with the fact that the metaphorical glacier has indeed begun to melt.

Before any die hard Brexiteers leap to the conclusion that I am equating the vote to leave with a natural disaster be assured I am not, quite the opposite.

If there is one expression I have heard from business peoples’ mouths more than anything since Brexit it is “we are just getting on with it”.

West Wing

West Wing

After such a lengthy period of holding back to see what the referendum outcome would be it now seems that the floodgates are starting to open.

In the past two weeks we have seen a flurry of big deals.

One of the region’s big success stories, vehicle leasing business Zenith, was sold by HgCapital to Bridgepoint in a transaction totalling £750 million.

The sale of the Leeds-based business, which has more than 500 employees and is set to become the anchor tenant at the new Kirkstall Forge business park in the city, is one of the biggest corporate deals Yorkshire has seen in recent history and is testimony of the strength of the business.

Just last week a genuine household name in form of McLaren announce it was coming to the Broad Acres by creating a new factory in South Yorkshire.

The firm will move research and production of its carbon fibre road car chassis to a site on the former Sheffield City Airport runway, create 200 jobs and potentially inject an additional £100m into the local economy in the ensuing decade.

And then late last week the southern half of our region received further good news when a landmark deal was agreed that saw Tata Steel off-load three of its plants to Speciality Steels in a £100m deal.

For anyone who knows these plants well, it is a significant step towards safeguarding the jobs of 1,700 workers and keeping open a plant which serves industries as diverse as aerospace, oil and automotives.

These kind of deals are not taking place in a chaotic economic nightmare brought about by an irresponsible vote to exit the EU.

Nor are they the consequence of a glorious act of emancipation which will ensure fiscal success until the end of days.

It is because, unlike so many politicians and certain sections of the media, bosses throughout Yorkshire and the UK are getting on with the job instead of navel gazing over the fact that the glacier has melted.

These deals are due to the fact that we have a resilient, diverse and high functioning economy which is as good a place as any to invest in throughout the world.

Opportunities and threats exist, as they always do in commerce.

But the reality is that, we are leaving. But for now we are still in the European Union and will continue to be so until negotiations are concluded, which should in theory be 2019 but in all likelihood will be further away than that. The debate over what kind of a Brexit we will have is a crucial one and I do not want to minimise its importance.

However the fact is we are still open for business and, rather than settling for a lost few years of inactivity for fear of what might happen further down the line, it seems more prudent to concentrate on what we can make happen right here and now.