There is no doubt that the referendum aroused strong feelings and caused division across the UK – and it continues to do so. However, the electorate has delivered a clear mandate to the UK government for the UK to leave the EU. For its part, the government has made it clear it intends to give effect to that mandate – that is the current position.
Of course, the prospect of future radical shifts in both EU and UK policy cannot be discounted. Nevertheless, it is critically important that both sides of the debate now work coherently and effectively together to secure the best negotiated outcome for UK plc.
Last Thursday, David Davis, the secretary of state for exiting the European Union, wrote in these pages that he wanted to “build a national consensus around our negotiating position, listening and talking to as many organisations, companies and institutions as possible”. This recognises the importance of the government’s democratic responsibility to represent the interests of all of the electorate and all regions that make up the UK. It also highlights the need for a significantly more inclusive and joined-up approach than is currently the case.
On 19 October we will be launching the Financial Services Negotiation Forum (FSNForum) which will provide a direct response to that call. As a new joint research and advisory body, it will bring together senior City figures and politicians from both sides of the referendum debate with the single objective of securing a negotiation outcome that is in the best achievable interests of the whole of the UK.
Recognising that Brexit impacts every individual and business based in the UK, the FSNForum will actively seek input from a broad cross-section of firms, particularly those companies, markets and other service providers that are, at present, under-represented. At a time of continuing post-referendum disruption and confusion, there is a clear need for a consensus-building forum, and for evidence-based research.
We also recognise that leaving the EU does not mean leaving Europe – far from it! Remaining in Europe is an essential backcloth to the negotiations. This means, therefore, that the Forum will be looking to work with other pro-business stakeholder groups in the EU to secure a negotiated outcome that reflects the need for a strong continuing relationship between the two.
In terms of its work agenda, the Forum will focus on commissioning objective research; speaking to under-represented firms; holding seminars and workshops; and promoting the cause of a pro-business outcome to the negotiations.
Our research programme will focus on those key issues, such as passporting and equivalence, and the clearing of euro-denominated products, which could obstruct a successful outcome to the negotiations.
At the launch, we expect to expand on our remit and provide updates on a number of initiatives, including progress reports on the Forum's initial three papers.
We particularly welcome any contribution to the work of the FSNForum from firms and individual practitioners who would like to highlight concerns and contribute towards research and educational workshops.
We are also very happy to work alongside and in concert with other groups. Already we have Graham Bishop, from the European Movement, and Daniel Hodson representing Business for Britain actively involved, and a strong balanced advisory council to ensure that the Forum sustains its commitment to an approach based on proportionality and inclusiveness.