THE UK MAY BE LEAVING THE EU, BUT WE’RE GOING TO STAY!
Today the British Prime Minister, Mrs Theresa May, began the formal process of withdrawing the United Kingdom from the European Union. This is a very sad day for us at Cairn. Not only do we greatly value both the business and personal connections that we have with fellow EU citizens, but we also very strongly support the more fundamental goals of mutual peace and prosperity between the nations that were responsible for its establishment, later joined by so many others including the UK, and which until now have been so successfully achieved.
One would have hoped that these achievements had been better valued, but instead we are now told by our Prime Minister that we must all come together to make a success of our withdrawal. In spite of the reassurances to the contrary, it is becoming increasingly clear that this is going to be a far from straightforward and harmonious process, but in our view it is the responsibility of those who voted to leave to deal with it, rather than those of us who would so greatly prefer to remain. OUR responsibility is to our employees and customers, which means to ensure the continuing success of Cairn, rather than that of “Brexit”. Together with our fundamental belief in the continuing EU project, our future actions will be based on that straightforward principle.
In our view the Brexit decision was primarily a political one, as now even some of its proponents appear to accept that its stated goals of reduced immigration and increased prosperity are unlikely to be achieved, and yet it is still going ahead. Because international cooperation and the free movement of people are so fundamental to the success of the scientific research activity that forms our core business area, we are caught in the eye of the storm here. Cairn is NOT a political organisation, but if our necessary response to the situation in which we find ourselves is considered to be political, then so be it!
We are facing a period of great uncertainty. That period began with the referendum result last June, yet since then it has only increased, as arguments have swirled around such issues as the Single Market, the Customs Union, and more recently that of non-tariff barriers, which are in fact likely to be the most important of all. How is any organisation who wishes to continue to trade with the EU expected to deal with this? We can’t just “wait and see”! Instead we need to make our own plans now, and that means preparing for the most extreme outcome, regardless of what actually happens, and which is out of the UK’s full control anyway.
Of course we are not alone in having to deal with such uncertainty, so like many others we will be following the obvious solution of setting up a subsidiary within the EU, with whom our EU customers can trade as easily as they can with us currently. Just a year ago we would never have contemplated such a move, and even now we would prefer not to, but it has become as inevitable as Brexit appears to be. However, Brexit is also an opportunity for the remaining EU nations to work more closely together, as the UK has always been a reluctant member with all its optouts, so we suspect that our departure will prove to be better news for the EU than it will for the UK. In spite of the complications it will cause us, we are therefore very excited to play our part in the continuing European story.
You may note that in recent months we have been describing ourselves as a “European” company rather than a British one, so according to the Brexit timetable we now have two years in which to make that a continuing reality. We are and will remain a fully independent organisation, and as many of our operations as possible will continue at our farm location just outside Faversham in Kent. However, for a fully effective presence in the continuing EU we are looking to have more than just an office, so that means having a base in an area with good links to the research activities that form our primary customer base, yet with reasonable access to other EU nations.
With great respect to the other 26, we are therefore most specifically considering Germany, and we even have a specific location in mind, although that has not yet been formally agreed. Further details will be announced in the coming weeks and months, but there is no need to wait if this development is of any potential personal interest. Apart from the obvious requirement to speak decent German in order to properly service the local market, we’ll be looking for the usual requirement of a research interest in a commercial setting, just as we do here in Kent.
In closing, and as our continuing European friends would say in dealing with challenging issues, “Wir schaffen das!”