The term ‘Brexit’ is the friendly or tedious new name for what we are about to do as in Britain by exiting the EU. When I say ‘about’ to do, it now seems like years ago and we are all tired of this unknown.
The Brexit Referendum
Our once in a lifetime (so they say) opportunity to vote on whether we would like to remain a member country of the European Union was held on 23 June 2016. To be honest, did anyone really know what it meant? It felt like a bungling attempt to be popular with the people before the real implications were understood. Were we all desperately eager to jump on this new alternative power to vote or voting because we knew what was right? Did we know how hard it would be to actually do? There were many incredible promise tactics used by ‘Leave’ supporters (Brexiteers). Including vast sums of additional money saved given to the NHS. And Remoaners (Remain) did their fair share of defence scaremongering as well.
Never as a citizen have I felt and still feel my country so divided, tired and angry.
With all change, there is uncertainty, however, not all change is bad. I remember when we joined the EU back in 1973. I remember ‘decimalisation’ in 1971, how we all wondered how we would manage with only 10 pence and not 12 pennies in a shilling? And how about Litres instead of Pints/Gallons? Inches and Centimetres?
We adapted very well as you can see. Now, we worry about the future again. Decimal currency was simple enough as we knew what it meant in the long term. When we joined the EU, we actually gained many benefits in trading, travelling and education (Eramus+). Human rights gained an extra level of protection and Justice.
Brexit as a change feels far more concerning. It is all the things we do not know, alongside all the things we are trying to hold onto – the Northern Ireland border and Good Friday (or Belfast) Agreement of 1998 after the years of ‘Troubles’ in the 70’s.
A Brexit Deal for Deal’s Sake
This week’s news is astonishing. Reading one of the latest Brexit articles on Business Insider it appears that the deal on the table could well be the only deal available. We see protesting and resignations by Conservative MPs on the terms laid out, and the calls for a leadership challenge. There is the notion that Labour MPs could vote for this deal, despite not being in agreement. And this is to avoid no deal, no exit or another referendum!
Further turmoil is read in an update ‘Brexit Won’t Be Easier If I’m Ousted‘. The ‘backstop’ deal on offer could keep things running as normal now, but could it indefinitely mean we have no say when this stops or if it stops?
Is Jeremy Corbyn in favour of a second referendum, another election or does he have another plan? What is it? Jeremy remains honest, he doesn’t know what he would vote if there was a second referendum tomorrow. However, by now we would hope that the leader of the opposition party would act as a leader and have a clearer view. He says the current draft is ‘vague’ and yet he is non-committal.
Would it really be so terrible if a ‘remain’ vote was the decision of a second referendum? A remain could be a stopgap until real insight is available about the benefits. Other than kneejerk proposed control of immigration. That control also having blurred lines.
Originally we were told, ‘No deal is better than a bad deal‘, now we are told, ‘A deal is better than no deal, a second referendum or no Brexit!’
Change Management – Empowering Brexit?
Kurt Lewin’s 3-Step Model – And the missing parts
Burnes (2004) says, Kurt Lewin believed “only by resolving social conflict, whether it be religious, racial, marital or industrial, could the human condition be improved”. Brexit has unearthed great social conflict along with religious intolerance and racial prejudice.
So far with Brexit, we see a simplistic theoretical use of Kurt Lewin’s 3-Step Model. You ‘unfreeze, change and refreeze’, Voilà! Apply that to anything and Bob’s your Uncle! We’ve seen ‘unfreeze’ with limited scope – the vote. We want the ‘change’ but we’re not sure what the change should be. With positive change not determined and players not empowered, at this stage, there is no hope of a satisfactory ‘refreeze’.
Lewin’s 3-Step Model was designed to be incorporated as part of 4 steps within a plan consisting of “Field Theory, Group Dynamics, Action Research, and the 3-Step model” (Burnes 2004). If you miss out the other steps you fail to understand why and how people act the way they do. The dynamics of Brexit mean you must understand how all groups work.
So, what is Field Theory – or Why we do things the way we do?
Lewin illustrates field theory as the need for a group with a certain set of values to maintain and protect a ‘status quo’ experience in order to survive (Burnes 2004). Therefore, any attempt to change an element will provoke defensiveness and criticism. The modern-day political arena in worldwide debate both on the news and in social media show this. The group’s behaviour can manipulate or modify individual behaviour so that any change attempted on an individual level can be undone/reversed by group peer pressure. It is important that the whole group acts as one with a positive influence upon each other.
With Brexit, in the UK., we have two colliding parties, each with divisions that attack their leader. We also have the SNP and the DUP who all play a significant part in the whole decision. For the SNP the Scottish Electorate voted 68% remain, 32% to leave. The DUP’s interest (55.8% voted remain) lies over the Irish Border. They formed a coalition with the Conservatives giving them the vital majority in the last General Election in 2017. Arlene Foster, the DUP Leader already threatened to vote against the October budget over Brexit. This morning we learn that ‘DUP abstains on government Finance Bill votes‘.
Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, (SNP) ponders over the possibility of a second Independence Referendum (Sturgeon Marr interview – The Guardian Politics Live 18 November 2018).
Outside of the UK., there are 27 other countries with a vested interest.
Theresa May continually says she will deliver Brexit, but her party and the opposition have no confidence in her. Likewise, they have no confidence in their own role.
Everything is rigid and obscured. Instead of delivering a positive trade deal, all parties fight among themselves.
Enlightening today, we read Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘sense of urgency’, and ‘it is important to understand why people voted as they did, and to put forward proposals that bring society together.‘ (17.26.) Personally, there you have it. And we have a fairly good idea now with the demographics analysed after the voting. The group has to be extended to the ‘people’, why they voted and does Brexit solve the reasons why they voted? Those reasons, some of them misled will continue after Brexit unless they are tackled now.
Brexit’s Action Research
Only by intense research, feedback and analysis can we find a way forward with the intended split that is Brexit! The Referendum vote was speculative. It is hard to judge the complexities of an outcome without a plan. The first draft has just been made.
However, the complexity that Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon see and agree make offering alternative plans/Independence calls unclear. Therefore, wouldn’t it make sense that this is not a simple Yes/No Leave/Remain, poll? The main bullet points of any proposed plan need putting forward with an itemised Yes/No. Giving a little bit more understanding, it might equally produce a yes where there was a no.
Research being gathered by BMG on behalf of the National/Scottish Government over the last 3 years among SMEs holds vital information on how Brexit will affect services and products. Even though they want to run another year until October, why not use this now? Empower businesses by an additional vote on vital issues this agreement will raise. Consult and empower all voices. Then a workable plan will emerge.
A Sense of Urgency?
How about using John Kotter’s 8 step model to look at Brexit? Creating a sense of urgency to deliver a required outcome. Theresa May is now creating ‘urgency’ to push through a deal. However, the deal being pushed is not necessarily one that will deliver what the United Kingdom requested or needs.
Jeremy Corbyn has never really presented a sense of urgency. As can be seen from the article above regarding the question of a second referendum, ‘it is not an option for today‘. This is probably wise considering he does not know what the question is, nor have an answer. Nicola Sturgeon needs to recognise the majority of Scotland voted to remain. But her hands are tied regarding a second Independence Referendum. She is ‘waiting for the dust to settle‘.
There is a sense of urgency to ‘get out’, but not a sense of urgency to plan, accommodate, and empower.
Building a Team has been exasperating! Admittedly the party in government gets the first chance. Far better would be to involve all parties with key talents and unique voices from the beginning in a non-partisan team. As a group with all views represented, they would then take ownership of the task; ‘focus’. Instead of sitting back waiting to build a wall on offerings. Deliberation on that first offering has taken forever, meaning time is running out for any other. Theresa May seems adamant that it is this or nothing whilst key members of her cabinet ‘feel sure they can get her to make amendments’. There have been numerous resignations within the Conservative party. Including Brexit Secretaries unable to provide adequate communication. The calls for a leadership challenge provide a further distraction for the job at hand.
Vision and Strategy of Brexit
The vision following the vote on 23 June 2016 is to leave the European Union and take back control. The strategy of Brexit, looking at the above is vague at best and falling apart with constant disagreement and lack of commitment. There are complex issues to consider such as the Northern Ireland border – the customs union and single market. This was never going to be an easy task and nobody in honesty would have wanted to oversee it. There are hardliners who want a total break, and those who want to keep single market access. People are not happy or empowered.
It is clear that the draft 585 pages rest uneasily with the UK MPs. Yet it will be voted upon on 25 November by the 27 European Countries on the other side of the table. They may say yes, and then we say no. The feeling at the moment is that the United Kingdom will be giving away more and taking back less in terms of control. A ‘no deal’ result would be catastrophic for Northern Ireland. There needs to be a deal that honours this agreement or no Brexit. There is no clarity in the backstop offered for the United Kingdom having control on deliverance or total withdrawal. In effect, not the Brexit voted for.
Communication has not been a strong point throughout this whole fiasco. During David Cameron’s years as Prime Minister, he did not manage to a) negotiate with the EU what the United Kingdom wished from membership, and b) on a whim he came up with the notion of offering a Referendum in exchange for election popularity. Hoping to call the UK citizens bluff. The outcome was a shock. Communication since then has down spiralled. People feel hopeless – including those who were for the option of leaving. Earlier today an update read that Theresa May’s speech with the CBI gave concern that ‘she’s listening but not hearing‘.
If you were to apply the Kübler-Ross Change Curve to the UK’s present situation evident is ‘Denial, Avoidance, Confusion and Fear’. You will still see ‘Anger, Frustration and Anxiety’. There is very little bargaining to be done. Although I’m sure we all feel, if only we could turn back time? The people are powerless and struggling to find meaning and you find ‘Overwhelm’ with depressive inclination after years of austerity. We feel a long way from removing barriers and acceptance. March 2019 will still shock those in denial.
We often get the ‘carrot of hope’ on a final agreement ‘vote’ before the opportunity is taken away. Then we get confirmation, no. We will do this anyhow. Why aren’t we building on a positive side of either leaving or remaining? We need to build a new culture of acceptance and determination. It feels like a stressful relationship ending; the one who leaves can ultimately end up paying a hefty price. The one left behind will miss you for a while but will rebuild.
The Referendum resulted in a very small margin, 51.9% for and 48.1% against. And that was with skewed advice. ‘This was the decision of the People, we will do what the People wished’. However, is this what the People wish for now? A final vote given to the People on the final deal would be the right choice. An informed decision provides clarity. If the choice to leave the EU was a mistake, then people need the right to recognise this before it is too late.
What is at stake for our economy after Brexit? What are the deals and regulations of the global future? How many businesses are already suffering because they do not know what they will have to change to stay on top? These are all questions that still do not appear to have answers. However, we are beginning to see that Brexit especially for business, will be costly.
People who are against a second referendum call it ‘sour grapes’, but it is far more than that. Now we know more about the procedure, difficulties and potential consequences, we can accept if the majority of voters feel the deal on the table is the correct deal, we can work with this. But not having the chance to reassess when it is very clear the sitting government and shadow cabinet cannot agree is shameful.
Retrial Brexit, please?
The democratic vote in 2016 was to leave the EU. This vote was cast on misguided and incomplete information. In the justice system, a retrial can take place when additional crucial evidence is brought forward. Surely with Brexit, we can say we didn’t know this? Can we reassess our verdict given the new knowledge we now have? After all, change is easier when you are inside the house than shouting outside the door through a letterbox!
Further Reading and Sources:
Burnes, B., (2004). Kurt Lewin and the Planned Approach to Change: A Re‐appraisal. Journal of Management Studies, 41(6), pp.977–1002. [Online] Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1467-6486.2004.00463.x [Accessed on 18 November 2018]
Grief.com: Kübler-Ross (The Five Stages of Grief) – information surrounding grief modified to become the Kübler-Ross Transition Curve in Change Management. [Online] Available from: https://grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief/ [Accessed on 20 November 2018]
Harvard Business School (2008). YouTube A Sense of Urgency – John Cotter [Accessed on 20 November 2018]
Institute For Government (2018). The November Draft Withdrawal Agreement. [Online] Available from: https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/explainers/draft-brexit-withdrawal-agreement-november [Accessed on 20 November 2018]
Kotterinc.com: (no date). Kotter – 8-Step Process. [Online] Available from: https://www.kotterinc.com/8-steps-process-for-leading-change/ [Accessed on 20 November 2018]