Earlier this week I joined a debate, hosted by Roxhill Media and Herbert Smith Freehills, on how the events of 2016 should inform how companies communicate in 2017. A strong panel of Iain Dey, business editor of the Sunday Times, Dan Roberts, who has the interesting role of Brexit editor at The Guardian, and Daniel Franklin, Executive Editor of The Economist, gave us a few reasons to be optimistic.
These were essentially:
- Trump has surrounded himself with people who do know what they are doing – from places like Goldman Sachs and Exxon;
- Trump’s economic policies are going down well with a large portion of US business;
- It is quite likely the US will do a trade deal with the UK on a “front of the queue basis”;
- China is used to dealing with volatile characters and is unlikely to react pre-emptively to 3am Twitter activity.
They also gave a few insights into how companies should try and process what is going on and how it would inform how they communicate. For example, Travis Kalanick of Uber had to quickly reverse his decision to join Trump’s business council after facing a revolt from liberal leaning customers. While many businesses have shown themselves to have concerns about Trump’s polices, only ones with particularly strong leaders, such as Starbucks and Berkshire Hathaway, have openly challenged the president’s policies.
In the UK, much of the pre-Brexit rhetoric of – particularly – financial companies has melted away. Though Iain Dey did point to Douglas Flint, chairman of HSBC, pointing out to MPs that the bank will have to move jobs from London. But then Mr Flint has already announced his retirement!
However, the scariest message from this seminar came from Daniel Franklin. As editor of The Economist’s World in 2017 he is used to predicting the future and he can see some big problems mounting in Europe during this year. Elections in Greece and potentially Italy could destabilise the Euro and the European project, but the biggest threat comes from France, where there is an upcoming presidential election.
With the Socialists moving even further to the left, and the centre right’s candidate François Fillon becoming mired in a financial scandal, it may come down to a choice between the charismatic but inexperienced independent leftish Emmanuel Macron, and the far right populist Marine Le Pen.
If you have not come across Marine Le Pen, she is a candidate who combines the anti-European nationalism of Nigel Farage with the blue collar protectionist polemicist of Donald Trump – along with a rabid anti-immigration stance.
The effect of her election would be to have a “Frexit” referendum which, if successful, would surely pull France out of the European Union. As Daniel Franklin rightly pointed out, Frexit would make Brexit irrelevant. It would mean the end of the European project.
What that means for:
- The European economy:
- The UK economy:
- Everything else…
…is not at all clear.
Compared to 2017, 2016 could seems like a picnic.