Accordance VAT chief Lucy Franklin explains why her firm is marking Brexit Day with a symbol of pro-EU unity
After three years of uncertainty, appalling rhetoric and delays, today is the day millions of us hoped would not come to pass. Despite the best efforts of UK politicians, MEPs, business people, academics and individuals up and down the country, we are now officially leaving the European Union.
Although the transition period will in theory maintain the status quo until the end of the year, today is an extremely significant moment for the nation, after which nothing will be quite the same.
I have made no secret that Brexit is something I fundamentally stand against. I have marched twice for a People’s Vote, and I’ve written in various different outlets about the effects Brexit will have on our culture, our people and our business. For me, as for many of my staff, Brexit is a deeply emotive subject.
Given today’s significance, it must be marked by those who oppose what is happening and who wish to show a strong sign of solidarity with EU friends, colleagues and neighbours.
That’s why I am harnessing not just the people in Accordance that feel the same way I do, but also our organisational machinery to commemorate this historic and sad day.
From midnight on January 31, our website has been subjected to a ‘Brexit Blackout’ – over the following days, instead of our usual homepage content we will show a black screen and a statement which highlights how proud we are of our diverse workforce (67% of whom are European nationals) and our intention to maintain a close practical and emotional relationship with the EU and its people. This move is intended to show our strength of feeling as a company – and our support for our EU colleagues and friends.
Indeed, it has been and remains the impact on people that most concerns me about Brexit. Today is an incredibly difficult day for EU nationals living in the UK, whose futures may seem unclear and for whom the ground beneath their feet is less stable than it was in the years prior to 2016.
That’s why I’ve decided to allow those who wish to mark this event with a personal display of pro-EU unity to do so, and we’ve made black armbands available for those who wish to wear them. My staff and I will be tweeting using the hashtag #EUANDME – sharing our experiences and ideas about what the EU means to us.
I believe symbolic acts are incredibly important, but they must be upheld by supportive actions. Throughout this process we have endeavoured to ensure our staff are as supported and protected as they can be.
I’ve made legal support available, provided regular Brexit briefings, set up an internal Brexit task force and have ensured that emotional and psychological support is available through line management and counselling sessions.
For my part, I am in Amsterdam in a show of unity with our EU colleagues, friends and clients and in recognition of my own European identity. I know that there is no going back after today – and whilst I will give my organisation time to mourn, in the coming weeks I’ll be encouraging everyone to look forward.
There are relationships to be built and maintained with our continental neighbours, and EU nationals in the UK whose rights must be fought for. With so much to be done and so many battles to take a stand on as we renegotiate our place in the world and our character as a nation, there is little time for sadness.
But on a day like today – quite unlike any other and so seismic for the future of our country – I’m giving my organisation and its people the chance to show how they feel.
Lucy Franklin is CEO of Accordance VAT