EU cooperation is more important than ever. We need a Brexit delay

Lucy Franklin, CEO of Accordance VAT (Pic: James Pike)

Lucy Franklin, CEO of Accordance VAT (Pic: James Pike) - Credit: James Pike

Even before the coronavirus recovery begins we're seeing how fundamental business collaboration is, says Lucy Franklin. A Brexit delay is inevitable

We're living through a situation that almost no one saw coming, and no one was prepared for. I'm not going to use this article to throw my voice behind the chorus of recriminations or celebrations of different nations' measures for dealing with the pandemic. Only time will tell who managed it best and who suffers the most.

What I will say, as a business leader and head of international firm Accordance, is that to emerge from this crisis with our economies intact we will need to work together across the board, on a political, enterprise and individual level.

As 2020 marches on with a course of events that are nearly unprecedented in modern history (who else yearns for the simpler days of wall-to-wall Brexit commentary?), EU unity is perhaps more vital than ever. We must work together to forge stronger links across the continent as the pandemic rages on. These links must be established across multiple areas of public life – from a political and scientific perspective, we need cross-EU cooperation to learn about the virus and how to overcome it. A vaccine will only be developed and made commercially available if we pool our shared knowledge and understanding of Covid 19 and how it works, and leverage commercial frameworks to make it available to people across the continent and wider world.

Collaboration in enterprise is also essential. With shutdowns which range in severity across the EU, business activity is diminishing and it's likely that we'll see certain sectors lose value as they batten down the hatches, despite various governments' attempts to implement stimulus packages. Now, as many companies find issues with procurement, supply chains and distribution, we need to work together to keep trade flowing while doing our best to keep cash flow healthy and employees productive. Those of us for whom business as usual continues shoulder even greater responsibility in helping trade to continue smoothly. Likewise, when we emerge from our quarantines and life returns to some semblance of normality, we will need an immense effort from sectors across the board to revitalise the economy.

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But even before recovery begins, we're seeing just how fundamental business collaboration is. The Covid-19 pandemic has made many of us aware of features of life we previously had little idea about. Empty shelves and pasta rationing have given us an idea of the complexity and importance of just-in-time sourcing mechanisms and the myriad supply chains which snake across the EU. For these essential goods to get to us – in time or not – there are a significant number of people involved. Take pharmaceuticals for example - we need people from chemists to warehouse staff to haulage drivers to be adequately protected, as they risk their health to turn up to work each day so that we are protected.

This requires business to take a responsible and collaborative approach – to ensure their own staff are protected for their own benefit and to protect those they come into contact with, and to work with suppliers whose workers have the correct PPE.

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The other great unanswered question for British people right now is Brexit. It seems obvious that the government's already wildly ambitious target of achieving a trade agreement by the end of this year is now abjectly impossible – not least as many of the key negotiators are themselves sick with the virus. But while a delay should be inevitable, Johnson's government is hard to predict, and the timeline may be resolutely clung to.

We can no longer stake our hopes on Brexit delays or changes. It falls to business to build strong networks which transcend boundary lines, and to work together to ensure that no-one on the continent is without the goods they need. At Accordance we believe that we all must play our part in keeping the economy stable, which is why we've launched a free EU Tax Authority Updates Tracker, to help businesses understand how changing frameworks on financial reporting might affect them. We've also launched #AtHomeInEurope, a campaign to help EU workers who find themselves working from home to continue to be productive, as well as continue to feel a sense of community.

In a crisis we see the best and worst of human behaviour. Business leaders, consumers and individuals must make sure we are striving for it to bring out our best, and we promote unity and collaboration at every turn.

Lucy Franklin is CEO of Accordance

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