Brexit posts were deliberately shunned on the Beer Means Business blog before the EU referendum. The reason was the belief that it was a decision to be made considering something greater than specific and current interests of groups of businesses. Now, faced with the outcome, it is more appropriate to talk about what lies ahead of the brewing industry.
There is a chapter in the book dedicated to the EU referendum. It’s only three pages long, not just because the outcome of the referendum was not known at the time of writing, but because, it is probably still the most you can say about its implications to the brewing industry.
First of all, it is still too political and theoretical. The only certainty about the practical implications for the beer industry remains the uncertainty. Unfortunately, this uncertainty is likely to last for the next couple of years. It is very unlikely that anything the brewing industry has or enjoys in being part of the EU will suddenly stop. These ‘benefits’ will simply and gradually become more difficult to obtain, making them more expensive or time-consuming.
However, you can pinpoint the obvious areas of concern, such as:
- International trade – not only in terms of final products, but also in terms of materials or services required;
- Employment of non-UK citizens – not so surprisingly, many EU nationals work throughout the long and complex supply chain of beer;
- Ultimately the overall state of the economy, its influence on
- exchange rates and thus access to products from abroad, as well as
- individuals’ purchasing power and thus consumers’ choice and level of consumption.
Regardless how you feel about the outcome, it is still best looked at as an invitation to thinking in new ways instead of the end of the world. Let’s not forget this uncertainty affects small business and big business alike. But small businesses are meant to respond to this better being more agile and creative.
Just to illustrate a new perspective on uncertainty: the UK imported 4,000,000hl more beer from the EU than it exported to the EU in 2014 (source: Brewers of Europe). This volume equals the total capacity of more than 800 small breweries with typically less than 5,000hl annual production.
NB: This post was written along the lines of what the author said at the launch event of the Beer Means Business book last night.