It's All About the Workers Now

01/07/2016 11:27 | Updated 01 July 2016

How to make sense of the greatest act of national self-harm in over a century?

It is possible, that this is part of a vast EU conspiracy. After all, one week on the £ is worth the same as the Euro and this may be the ERM re-dux: a very cunning plan to finally peg our currency to the Euro. It is possible, that the Brexiteers have secretly planned a massive EU-propaganda coup: the pound has fallen; inflation is therefore bound to rise; the ECB will soon start printing money; inflation is therefore bound to rise further; interest rates cannot be cut in any material way; tax receipts will be down; there is a political vacuum in the country; there is a looming constitutional crisis and no one but no one can answer the million dollar (now pound) question: how to square the promise of immigration curbs with the compelling need for trade access and passporting rights to the City of London?

How to make sense of it all?

First, we cannot go back. Nigel Farage may have won the vote but he will lose the argument. Globalisation and the IT-led revolution mean that we cannot go back to the future. Those old jobs are never coming back. We live in a land of Uber, Deliveroo and zero hours contracts. Ours was already the most flexible economy in Europe: absent EU employment legislation we will simply double-down on freedom on contract.

In the employment world, the main development over the next 10 years will be the return to 19th century concepts of contractual rights and a rowing back from what will be seen as a high water-mark of European-based employment rights. It will not be overnight but it will be incremental. First, the Working Time Regs are likely to go, then bits of TUPE, then parts of the equality agenda. (This may mean, for example, the statutory right to paid holiday may go, to be replaced by a negotiated agreement over holiday entitlement, per contract). It won't happen overnight but it will happen remorselessly and stealthily.

How to survive in such a world? People are thrashing around for answers. The old, like a Munch Scream, have shouted into the void to deliver Leave, but their voice will go unheard. What of the young? What of the workers?

All of the best businesses I know trust their workers. They are run by enlightened entrepreneurs and they have a genuinely "bottom up" view of empowering good people to do the right thing and so generate revenue. All of the bad businesses I know do precisely the opposite: they impose top-down protocols on recalcitrant workers who are demotivated to produce results.

What does this show? That we need to trust the workers. We can't reverse the IT-led revolution in which we are living. We can't undo the result of last week. We must adapt. We must take advantage of the lighter regulatory regime. We must embrace a genuinely bottom-up view of civic entrepreneurship so that the workers are empowered to generate revenue and better their communities. It will be about education and collaborative (often local) partnerships to let many millions of flowers bloom. For the UK in 2016, it is the only way forward.