Adland To PM -- Ditch Option Of A No Deal Brexit

Brexit began to get very real last night -- and adland has made it clear what the threat is and what it needs from the Government.

In the wake of Theresa May's EU Withdrawal Agreement suffering the worst Commons defeat in modern parliamentary history, two pressing matters have come to the fore. 

On the one hand, the Advertising Association and high-profile members of adland have made it very clear that they believe a no deal Brexit has to be off the proverbial table. It was obvious that last night's vote was going to be a humiliating defeat for the Prime Minister, and it is likely that the speed at which The Drum could get its story out this morning, calling for no deal to be ruled out, suggests that the reaction and possibly the story were pre-packaged and ready to go. 

The marketing and advertising industries have every reason to be concerned, the figures suggest. Enders Analysis is predicting a 3% drop in ad spend if the current counting down of the political clock carries on until the end of March and the UK leaves the EU with no deal. It would be the first annual drop since the disastrous global financial meltdown which saw spend drop 13% in 2009.

If an orderly withdrawal can be orchestrated, with an agreed deal in place between the UK and the EU, the Enders figures suggest ad spending will increase by 2.7%. The choice is effectively between a 3% dip and a near 3% increase. 

The concern is mirrored by figures in Marketing Week which show that for the first time in a decade, marketers revealed an even balance between those who expect to cut spend and those who expect to increase it. It means that overall, budgets are not expected to grow up. It is notable because the figures have shown a positive increase in budget for the past six years. 

Clearly, there is huge concern, and adland already had its plea ready to deliver to Downing Street.

It just needed the timing to be right, and a massive vote against the current Withdrawal Agreement was that moment. It is worth remembering that the default legal position, if not deal can be found, is a no deal Brexit. However, Parliament has already passed an amendment that could withhold money from the Government if it pursues a no deal Brexit, signally there is not a majority in favour of a no deal Brexit, just as there is no approval on May's deal.

Today is the opposition's last attempt to seize control but its Vote of No Confidence in the Prime Minister is unlikely to pass when she commands a small minority that either do not want another election or cannot bring themselves to support a motion against their own leader or temporary ally brought forward by Jeremy Corbyn -- in many cases, both.

So, yes -- my reading is that we will be moving another inch closer to a second referendum in around a month's time. The next few weeks will be devoted to Theresa May seeking to come up with another plan as Parliament possibly sets itself the same task. If consensus cannot be reached, a second vote seems the most plausible way to put the question back in the hands of the electorate.

For today, however, the news is very clear. Marketing and advertising are joining other business leaders in warning that a no deal is, in their opinion, so bad for the country that it must be removed from the table. 

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