On the 21st July, a little under a month after the announcement of the UK’s EU referendum result, we gathered a dozen leaders from the Isle of Man’s public and private sectors in a room at Boston HQ. The goal was to discuss the possible impact on the Isle of Man economy and how to respond. This is the last of four blogs unpacking the discussions and comments from that day. You can also download the full transcript of the meeting here.
I knew how high the quality of our contributors was before I walked into the room, yet I was still incredibly impressed by the insights into the Island’s threats and opportunities that we were able to generate as a group. Whilst ideas are great, however, implementation is another thing, so we spent quite some time talking about how we can react as a community.
We are lucky that the Isle of Man was already a step ahead when the votes were still being collected. Our public sector representatives rightly stressed that whereas the UK had seemingly made no preparations for an ‘out’ vote, the Manx government had done its research and releases a white paper. They had also hit the ground running after the vote and, at the time of the Forum, were well into an information gathering exercise, assessing the scope of the impact on each government department.
The next big step being taken by government is a major consultation exercise, with events on the 13th September and 2nd November aimed at collecting private sector input into the government’s planning. The results from this will define the Isle of Man’s priorities, which in turn will be fed back to Westminster.
This raised a broad point in terms of public-private collaboration. It was felt that whilst the government in the Isle of Man is extremely accessible, the business community rarely responds to consultations. One discussion point centred around the role of business associations in terms of mediating private sector feedback, and that perhaps many of them were falling short. Direct feedback to government can often be difficult and lead to an impasse due to conflicting priorities, it was felt, and private bodies could do a lot to help consolidate and clarify industry needs. In order to do this, however, they need to drive better engagement than they do currently.
In return, the challenge from the private sector, acknowledged and agreed by the public sector contributors, was that the government should see this time of change and reflection as an opportunity to do more than just react to challenges. It was felt that if we are going to have to change a significant amount of legislation, then we should do so not with an eye on preserving the status quo but with an eye on what we could possibly achieve in the future.
The Forum contributors were unanimous in their feeling that the next Manx general election was extremely important, given the strength of leadership that will be required in the next term of Tynwald. One concrete action suggested was that private sector leadership could do more to encourage staff to get involved in the election.
Finally, the importance of encouraging the movement of private wealth to the Island was again underscored. The role of job-creating, high-net-worth entrepreneurs in driving new opportunities in the economy was widely accepted and it was agreed that attracting such people to relocate here and consider the Island home should remain a high priority. Part of this may be about legislation and structural changes are but the fact remains that to achieve this we also need to keep an eye on quality of life.
I know we all went away with a lot of notes as to how we would individually respond to the challenges of Brexit. I would encourage you to download the transcript for yourself, read through it, and consider how you can do the same.
Are you interested in more detail? You can download the full transcript of the Boston Brexit Forum here.