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Is the UK OK? The dangers of communicating uncertainty

The latest Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) revealed a holy trinity of growth across construction, manufacturing and services sectors, hinting that the UK may be getting back on track, and the critical service economy in particular may be returning to form.

Ernst & Young’s annual European Attractiveness study also revealed we maintained our position as Europe’s number one destination for foreign direct investment. All of which might make us business owners feel like we can sit back and put our feet up.

But despite this being an uncharacteristically positive boost for business morale, brand Britain can’t afford to rest on its laurels. Competition for growth and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is incredibly tough, and while the UK may have held onto pole position for FDI based on our strong reinvestment performance, Germany overtook us some time ago in the new investment stakes.

This brings us to the communications challenge. While Britain has traditionally been able to successfully position itself as a gateway to Europe, recent high profile debate over the EU could threaten this hard won reputation. 

The UK Government has communicated a clear global message that we are reviewing our position in the EU at a time when businesses and investors are most in need of assurance of stability. While there may be arguments about the relative merits of either an ‘In’ or ‘Out’ vote, the prospect of a communications hokey cokey rumbling on until the referendum in 2017 risks leaving businesses and investors confused.

Politics aside, we need to safeguard the reputation of brand Britain as a stable link to Europe and a dynamic market that welcomes international trade. Like any brand, short-term uncertainty can have a long term damaging effect on trust. 

Business leaders and the Government need to communicate a clear vision of what the future might look like, in or out of Europe to show we are open for business. Communicating  uncertainty is not an option.