Brexit and chill

Search for Brexit on Google and you can expect 165,000,000 (and counting) hits in just 0.33 seconds which is some achievement for a term that was first coined in June 2012, according to the online MacMillan Dictionary.

It was originally a variant of Grexit, referring to the possibility of Greece being forced out of the European Union, but four years on and the UK has voluntarily beaten Greece to it by voting to Leave on June 23rd.

It seems that around 160,000,000 of the Brexit mentions have been published since the vote was finalised with almost every media issue or story coming with an angle in some shape or form. Even the Olympics has been linked with Leave voters joking (probably) that Team GB’s 2016 medal success is entirely down to Brexit.

A lot has been speculated and forecast about the economy and financial markets both before and since June 23rd, but none of it so far has been based on real data on the impact on the economy – which finally comes this week with the first official figures.

July inflation, employment and retail sales figures are being published by the Office for National Statistics and will be based purely on the impact after the vote on jobs, spending and prices.

The data will be analysed and reanalysed by Remain and Leave supporters to find evidence to support their positions, with any rise in unemployment seen as proving the vote to Leave is an economic disaster while a fall will be seen as proof that the economy will boom after Brexit. It is a safe bet that the phrase “Project Fear” will be mentioned somewhere in the coverage.

The political debate will clearly run and run and run – the UK has two years to negotiate its Brexit after formally triggering Article 50 to leave the EU, and no date for starting the process has been announced as yet.

However the data debate is now officially post-Vote with the first real economic figures (subject to revision) published. The same will start applying to company financial results and to other data, as well as consumer research.

Forecasts and speculation will now run into reality, and anyone saying the Leave vote will be bad/good for employment will need to have a response to the actual ONS figures showing that employment has risen/fallen.

Of course, one month’s figures will not define the economic impact of Brexit once and for all and there will remain a major role for forecasts which will leave a space for speculation.

The lesson for communications and PR is that research and opinion need to be based in reality, and that the post-vote debate now needs to absorb the lessons from the real economy from the first reaction of consumers following the vote.

Then again, it is still the summer and the return to work does not really happen until September so perhaps next month’s figures will be a better guide?

For the record, August inflation is out on September 13th followed by employment figures on the 14th and retail sales on the 15th. Something to look forward to.

Written by Kevan Reilly, Executive Director

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