In time honoured fashion, the night of the EU referendum saw the UK’s broadcast media descend on Basildon, a town well known for its forthright voters.
It wasn’t surprising that its residents opted robustly for Brexit. And as the town’s mayor announced the result, the crowd at the count didn’t disappoint the TV crews.
“Goodbye Brussels” came the cry. But the heckler forgot the second part: “hello world”.
For those of us who campaigned as social and economic liberals to leave the EU cartel, 23 June 2016 represented an extraordinary day. It set our country free in all sorts of ways. In economic terms, the most important of these was restoring the UK’s ability to negotiate our own trading relationships with the rest of the world. We are no longer reliant on Brussels to negotiate deals on our behalf.
Some argue that the Brexit pursuit of a truly global Britain taking back control of its trading relationships equates to a nostalgic version of economic imperialism. That’s not how we liberal Brexiteers have ever seen it.
Our vision is of an outward looking, free trading country that uses its newfound freedom to re-establish the UK as a beacon of global trade.
And if you want to see how our post-Brexit economy might work, look no further than my own industry: communications.
The very things that make London the leading international financial centre also makes us a global hub for communications services. The benefits of our language, time zone, education system, and our centuries-long history of trading have given rise to a genuinely world class export industry. London plays host to the greatest concentration of marketing, advertising and public relations talent on the planet.
As the founder of Pagefield, a London-based communications agency, this is something that I have seen firsthand. The industry is an exceptional exporter, and we have long enjoyed growth in regions from the Middle East, to sub-Saharan Africa, to east Asia.
The industry’s links with clients in the Commonwealth countries are unrivalled. And the commercial partnerships we enjoy with our sister industries in the US are a source of significant trans-Atlantic trade.
We have achieved this level of success despite, rather than because of, the UK’s 44-year membership of the EU. Although our communications industry has enjoyed some success in Brussels and across Europe, it pales in comparison to our trade with the rest of the world. Importantly, a significant amount of our EU-based business has been generated by UK firms paying consultancies to protect and promote their interests in the mire of Brussels-generated regulation.
Given recent headlines, a cynic may say that the industry is simply good at rearing its head in ugly places. Such thinking is wrong. Rather, there is global demand for our work because London-based consultancies have built a hard-won reputation for being great at what we do.
I am no starry-eyed Brexiteer. I have seen how the UK communications industry has successfully marketed itself to clients around the world. And I and my business partners believe in the potential for further growth in international markets enough to launch a new business this autumn, one which delivers more of this great UK communications talent to clients around the world.
Ours is a genuinely global ambition shared by many British business leaders. The success of the UK communications industry is a template that others could follow. So see you in the business lounge at Terminal 5.