Johnny Luk’s reaction to EU Referendum – The community must take part

By Johnny Luk – Chief Executive Officer, National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs

The first reaction to the ‘new world’ is of surprise. Many will not have expected this outcome. It is hard to say how this will specifically impact the Chinese community in the UK in the short term, but no doubt there will be an economic shock in the short term that will cause turbulence with the general UK population. It will however – also present itself with unique opportunities.

It’s really important for our leadership to provide calmness and a sense of control. We haven’t left the EU yet, we have just signalled our intention too. The Government will not invoke Article 50 (the mechanism that puts in a two year timetable for withdrawal) immediately and I hope there will not be an emergency budget or a call a general election. That kind of instability does not help the UK.

Instead an advisory committee with Brexit supporters from the Tory party will begin to draft a plan for a staged, controlled withdrawal. Rushing would be a major mistake. I suspect Gove and Boris will lead on this. It will require the full might of the foreign office’s diplomatic guile to negotiate from a position of strength. EU leaders won’t want to give us good terms if it encourages further disintegration. This is despite being in the interest of the EU to get a good deal with the UK, as many EU citizens benefit from trade with the UK.  

Some items can be resolved faster than others – sorting out a system to share intelligence for example because it’s in everyone’s interest, while trade deals will be harder. Advisors from Norway, Switzerland, Canada etc. will be drafted in to understand alternative models.

For the Chinese community – this is just the beginning. Our relationship with China has now surged in even greater importance.

We must continue to advocate great trade deals, and use our smaller size to maker faster decisions that can accelerate progress with other countries, in particular the Far East. International students also need a fair shake into our education system. They broaden our horizons, bring in talent and our education system won’t survive financially without it. Our global brand is now even more essential and needs to be repaired. 

Uncertainty is bad for jobs and investment. However – at its core, the UK, whether in or out, is a world leading nation, with one of the strongest economies in the world, renowned culture and most importantly, with talented people, home grown and beyond. We must stay confident in that. 

Entrepreneurs among us have to step up and take advantage, creating the jobs we need – build collaborations beyond any artificial border and become role models. At the very least, the reduction in the value of sterling might help exports.

We must advocate for an open UK – a country that embraces diversity, ambition at a world stage and not be afraid to call out against lies to stir up fear, or let immigrants become scapegoats.

It’s now our responsibility to make the best of the situation.

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