Following defeat of Brexit deal, what's the best way forward for the country?

The government has survived a vote of no confidence, but the future of the UK looks as uncertain as ever. Here, industry leaders weigh in on the right course of action to take.

Theresa May’s Brexit deal has suffered a historically large defeat in parliament, leaving the UK heading towards the date of exit, 29 March, with no clear direction. As things stand, the country is set to leave the European Union without a deal in place – an outcome that Enders Analysis this week warned would lead to a 3% recession in the UK advertising market, along with other damaging potential consequences.

"No deal would be hugely disruptive and WTO [World Trade Organization] terms would leave industry facing several non-tariff barriers, as most advertising restrictions around the world are rooted in domestic regulation," Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association, said.

"There are three minimum essentials government must negotiate for advertising: continued cross-border data flows; plurality of broadcasting channels to carry cross-border advertising; and flexible migration. We are determined to continue advocating the best deal from Brexit to ensure the UK remains the world’s advertising hub."

But unless MPs are able to agree on another course of action – such as an alternative form of exit, a general election or a second referendum – no deal will happen by default. A majority of them are opposed to the current deal (and that's also true of the public), but there is also seemingly no majority in favour of any other option. With the clock ticking down, what should happen?

James Murphy

Founder, Adam & Eve/DDB

2016 was a fake news referendum with fake options. The Remain case was appallingly and complacently made and the Leave campaign rested on a mixture of fantastical claims and deliberate lies. Thirty months later and while chaos reigns, we do have a clearer and more honest view of the options. We can see what a deal with the EU looks like, we’ve had a chance to contemplate what no deal would mean and we have had time to reflect on the pros and cons of remaining. The only positive way forward is to go back to a much better informed public for their decision.

David Bain

Planning partner, BMB

What the Brexit process has conspicuously lacked is the kind of strategic clarity and imagination that leads to truly breakthrough thinking; thinking like Oak Furnitureland’s "Love oak" campaign or the equally unexpected "Life is short, have a Diet Coke" work. Thousands of hours have been wasted by hundreds of people with decades of political and diplomatic experience, all trying (and failing) to solve Europe’s trickiest brief. But politicians all think within the box, work by the book. Surely the time has come to give the challenge to a bespectacled trio of planners and creatives that have spent the last three years disrupting market paradigms in really tough sectors like yellow fats. It’s time the true disruptors stepped the fuck up.

Eva Grimmett

Chief strategy officer, Havas Media Group

Speaking personally, I have never been as gripped by politics as I am now. Partly because no-one is able to say what the way forward is or, more importantly, form a majority for it. We are at what can only be described as a stalemate and so I believe that the most pragmatic (although it couldn’t be described as the best) solution is a second referendum. A general election will not help, because Brexit is not a party-line issue. So, a second chance for the population to say what it wants is the only possible way out of this constitutional crisis.

Chris Pearce

Chief executive, TMW Unlimited

Recently, I heard 2020 US presidential runner Cory Booker speak. The senator was acknowledging the feelings of defeat and anger following the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation. His oratory was extraordinary. His central message was clear and his leadership was intoxicating. "I'm going to continue to be a voice in this country for the love, for bringing the nation together, not driving the nation apart." You all know the options we face in the UK – extension to article 50 and/or transition period, another referendum, a series of parliamentary votes to find consensus et al. But one thing is clear – we need to find a leader with the vision and healing charisma of a Cory Booker or we are simply buying time, not progress.

John Quarrey

Founder, Krow

Our two-party system is not capable of delivering Brexit, so step one is to release all MPs from their party whip and allow a free vote. Step two is for the Leave and Remain MPs to form temporary, one-issue co-operatives. Each group will then develop two proposals, giving two for Leave, two for Remain. These proposals need to be boiled down into testable propositions; who better to do this than the ad industry? Each group selects two agencies to develop the propositions into researchable material – idea films, perhaps. They must pass ASA [Advertising Standards Authority] scrutiny. They are then researched on YouGov's new YouSay platform and the research is presented to parliament by [Krow co-founder] Malcolm White, the best presenter of YouGov data in the country. The MPs vote; one idea wins. We implement it with the necessary legislation. We return to normal. Four weeks, start to finish. Easy peasy.

Mark Lund

Chief executive, McCann Worldgroup UK

From a creative business point of view, I feel the key thing is to keep focused on the positive underlying realities and not be unsettled by short-term uncertainty. The UK is a wonderfully positioned creative market in terms of language, geography, history and cultural diversity and freedom. The advertising market in the UK has continued to grow with strength for the best part of the last decade because it delivers long- and short-term ROI – with an increasing evidence base. We have to take these pluses and continue to deliver excellent meaningful ideas for our client businesses both in the UK and outside. I have huge faith in the UK, in all its parts, to keep delivering through the turbulence.

Danielle Bassil

Chief executive, Digitas UK

Like it or not – and I don’t like it – I do think that we are heading for Brexit. In which case, the politicians have to move party politics aside and do the right thing for our country by standing firm and getting the best deal possible – one that parliament can get behind. We clearly need a stronger deal that addresses the border issues while protecting the economy – there is work to be done to get through this uncertainty that’s creating shaky ground in our economy, and we need to move fast.

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