Hard Brexit Poker Face Engaged As Adland Prays For Free Trade Deal

So there you have it. Brexit really does mean Brexit. It had become a joke over the past few months, but it turns out that Theresa May was deadly serious all along. The UK will no longer be a part of either the EU or the Single Market. Put bluntly. Brexit doesn't only mean Brexit, it means hard Brexit. No sad late night calls to lament where it all went wrong. No meeting up for Netflix and chill on a dull Saturday night when neither of us has anything going on. As a nation, we're off -- and there's no looking back. 

The news that the government has veered toward the side of hard Brexiters and is not even entertaining being in a single market, because of the political catches that come with it, will be difficult for the London advertising, marketing and publishing scene to deal with. It's a rarity -- an element of the UK economy that is very much in the black each quarter when the nation's imports and exports are balanced out standing out against the overall figure, which is always deeply in the red.

The IPA and AA have put a brave face on it all with statements that could be surmised as acknowledging that the PM is doing her best to get a good deal and at least the industry now knows where it stands. The caveat added on is that Westminster must not forget the huge contribution the media industry makes both at home and in a trade surplus abroad. Restrict this industry's ability to bring in the best talent from the EU and its potential to keep a healthy trade balance with the mainland, through free trade, and the government will be shooting itself in the foot. Those aren't the exact words, but they're the common sense sentiment being offered to the Government.

Yesterday's speech was the result of intense pressure on the PM to reveal her negotiating strategy, and I'm sure she would have preferred to keep her cards a little closer to her chest. There's a game of poker about to take place, and there was never any point going into negotiations with one's position laid bare. I suggest the absolute hard Brexit view we have just had laid out is probably the start of this game. It's a firm position that the PM cannot turn away from -- unless, of course, there's something very tempting being offered that can be sold to the UK public.

One can almost see the conversation unfold. Germany will want free trade on its quality cars and the French on its wonderful produce, and -- you just never know -- if Theresa May has her arm twisted there may be room there for financial services and, we pray, marketing and advertising services to be offered in return. If so, there will almost certainly have to be concessions made for free movement of jobs within these industries, or at least, a flexible work permit regime.

It's a high-stakes game in which EU leaders are constantly reminding the UK that they are more concerned about their remaining members than a single petulant child leaving the flock. Germany and France, and those who tag along, will be more than happy to cut us adrift -- even if it seems like they are cutting off their nose to spite their face. However, this is all bravado before the serious talks begin. Look to the US -- is Germany confident that its luxury cars and engineering products are not going to attract higher tariffs? Is President-elect Trump just bluffing? China was the great hope, but the unspoken truth is that it hasn't lived up to expectations. Outside of the US and China, the UK is usually the biggest single market for German car exports. Of their three biggest markets, do they really want a tariff fight with two while they hope orders pick up in the third?

The funny thing is that the leaders involved at the start of these conversations will likely not be around when they come to fruition. Merkel is due a backlash in the autumn over immigration that has already been visited upon her ruling party at the local level. President Hollande decided -- to a huge round of applause -- not to stand in April's election, so there will be a new French President. My friends all thought it was unlikely that Marine Le Pen would cause a populist shock, and their money is on the more moderate PM, Fillon. However, there is still potential for populist shocks in the Netherlands and Italy.

If you want my tip, watch Italy here. It's the next Greece -- only it's big enough to bring the Eurozone down. Brussels isn't too bothered about Athens, but Italy is different. It's the difference between losing a cousin twice removed and a brother or sister. 

So the UK is not the only fly in the EU ointment here. It will be a very interesting year ahead. We still don't know what we'll come out with, but we at least know Theresa May's opening bid as she dons her poker face and prepares to trigger Article 50.

We just have to keep up the good work of reminding her how important this industry is the country and how vital it is to have free trade with our nearest neighbours in a balance sheet rarity; a UK industry permanently in the black with the rest of the world and the EU.

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