Simon Hart

Written by: Simon Hart

Simon Hart

Knowledge Management Partner

Brexit and the five stages of grief

  • October 2017
  • 3 minutes
  • Brexit

Psychologists often say you go through five stages of grief after a breakup. First comes the denial. Then anger. You refuse to believe it. You fight. Surely this can’t be happening. 

At the half way point, you start to bargain – just give me another go, I’ll get it right this time. Then depression hits. Finally, you come out the other side, ready to accept your new reality.

Sound familiar? Over the past 18 months, the UK has been through them all. Brexit has come to resemble a messy breakup – the EU referendum the decree nisi in a long and complicated divorce. 

With such a narrow victory, the vote left many tumbling through what looked like the early stages of grief: disbelief, anger and bargaining for a second referendum.

Now it looks like there’s appetite to move on. Not into a state of depression, but one of acceptance.

Business leaders are starting to recognise a new reality. They’re looking to the future with pragmatism. And they’re taking risk reduction measures to protect their organisations in a post-Brexit world.

Over the past six months, we’ve worked with YouGov to track business sentiment towards Brexit. Our findings show increasing acceptance towards the country’s new reality, with middle market leaders expecting to emerge from the divorce stronger.

We’re also seeing firms take practical action to prepare. Many have taken steps to become more efficient and productive. Others are looking to set up subsidiaries on the continent to secure future access to the EU. 

And in a final coup for the government, there’s widespread confidence that the UK delegation will reach a good deal with Brussels.

How has this happened?

In many ways, an initial outcry was inevitable. The referendum created a binary choice: you were in the EU or you were out. There was no in between. Tribalism fed newspaper columns, TV debates and political posturing, and it split the country in two. 

Over time, polarisation softens. Many understand that this no longer a choice between good or bad, success or failure. The outcome will be somewhere in between. And businesses’ only choice is to get on with it. 

They say time is a healer. And, so far that looks to be the case with Brexit. That said, we haven’t seen the divorce settlement yet – the cycle of grief could start once more when we do.

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RSM Brexit monitor

RSM is working with YouGov to track business sentiment as the UK prepares to the leave the EU.

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