Last night, we marked the next milestone in our development – moving in to our new offices at Artillery House in Victoria. WA is cementing itself as the consultancy of choice for organisations with complex reputational, policy and regulatory issues, and has experience sustained year-on-year growth and our new office is the latest sign of this success.
To celebrate WA’s expansion, we invited George Parker, Political Editor at the Financial Times, to give his insights on the latest Brexit developments, based on his three decades of experience at the heart of UK and EU politics.
Clients, senior business executives, policy specialists and Westminster insiders joined us for our first party in our new office to catch up over wine and canapés and to meet many of our exciting new team members.
“The crystal ball is hazy”
As Brexit draws nearer, George gave us an insight into his thinking on the big question of the day. While many aspects of the process remain uncertain, despite being only 50 days until Brexit day, many in the room agreed an extension of Article 50 is likely regardless of the deal passing or not.
While there is seeming lack of progress, George told us he believes there is life in Theresa May’s deal yet. The DUP seems to be more open to working with government than they have been recently as the prospect of no-Brexit looms. Similarly, the ERG fears a substantial delay or no Brexit at all and are also softening their position to a certain extent. Whilst they are warming to the idea of a tweaked May deal, in private discussions the threats of pulling support from government if May softens her stance on Brexit in a more Europhile direction very much remain.
On Labour, while sections of the party and its leadership are becoming less hostile to working with May and supporting her deal (as outlined in Corbyn’s letter spelling out Labour’s five Brexit asks), George was clear this would still take time. He set out how Corbyn and his top team, supported by union boss Len McCluskey, are slowly creating a permissive environment to enable the “Great British compromise” that Richard Burgeon, Shadow Justice Secretary, has teased.
Whilst the competing Brexit groups and positions seem to be dynamic and uncertain, with government policy today resembling something nobody could have envisaged three years ago, there remains the prospect of a last-minute deal. With the clock ticking, George highlighted how EU negotiations often go to the wire, so there may be space for May’s deal to scramble over the line.
There are two main set-piece events to watch going forward. The EU-League of Arab States summit in Sharm El-Sheikh later this month, which May is likely to attend, is an opportunity for further progress or concessions on both sides as all EU heads of states will be at the event. Leaders are also set to convene at the European Council on 21-22 March, if any last-minute agreements are to take place, this is likely where they will happen.
So, whilst the crystal ball is hazy and Brexit continues to surprise us all, there remain avenues for a Brexit deal with sufficient support to be cobbled together.
Thank you to all who joined us last night and to George for his excellent commentary on such a complex subject. We’re incredibly excited about the year ahead and look forward to hosting many more events throughout the year as we settle into our new home and share our ongoing success. Stay tuned!