Facts not Fear: The Impact of Brexit on US Business

Institute for Supply Management (ISM) CEO Tom Derry tells Procurious that people need facts, not speculation and fear, when it comes to understanding the impact of Brexit on US business.  

Brexit US Business

ISM took the unusual step this month of releasing a supplementary Report on Business, focusing specifically on the impact of the UK’s Referendum on EU membership on US business.

The decision was prompted by a flood of enquires from US business and media representatives about whether the data for this month’s highly anticipated and influential report would reflect the fallout from Brexit.

“We decided to go back to our panel of over 600 procurement professionals with a tailored series of questions about the net financial impact of Brexit on their organisations”, said Derry.

“More importantly, there has been an enormous amount of speculation about the impact of Brexit, fed by a sense of unease and uncertainty. ISM was in a position to gather real data and put the information out there so businesses can make informed decisions based on facts, rather than fear, concern or emotion.”

Negligible Impact

The report will serve to dispel much of the speculation around the impacts of Brexit on US business. The vast majority of those surveyed reporting that Brexit will have a “negligible” impact on their business. Only one in three thought their firm would be negatively, or slightly negatively, impacted.

The main concerns for those who do anticipate an impact include the exchange value of the dollar, changes in demand globally, financial market uncertainty, and currency movements.

“The report demonstrates that despite the speculation, the majority of US businesses feel that Brexit will have a negligible impact”, says Derry. “This is because the US has a comparatively low export economy at only 13 per cent of GDP, so we are relatively insulated from the impacts of currency movements and global demand. We’re not a huge commodity exporter, although the strength of the dollar is of course a concern for those who are in the exporting business.”

Derry says that in the short-term, trade relationships are stable. “For US firms doing business in the UK or EU, very little has changed. For now, we’re good – business is predictable, and we love predictability and certainty.”

Future Investment Shift

In the long-term, however, US businesses may not choose to invest additional dollars in the UK. Historically, a lot of companies (such as car manufacturers) have used the UK as their port of entry into the EU, due to its shared language and talented workforce.

Derry added, “That option may no longer be so attractive, and discretionary investment will probably shift to Eastern Europe – Poland or the Czech Republic – to have a presence within the EU, and take advantage of low-cost labour.”

Derry says that the Brexit referendum is a historical event. However, in 10 years it is likely to be seen as a political decision, rather than an economic one. “The ‘sky is falling’ scenario is certainly overdone”, he says. “I don’t think we’re going to see the fracturing of the EU over Brexit.”

“It’s important to keep our vision focused forward. As supply management professionals, we work in the global economy and a major shift, such as Brexit, forces each of us to recalibrate our global supply strategies and trade relationships. The EU is the largest single market in the world – we can’t ignore it.”

Click here to read the supplemental ISM Report on Business: Brexit Report.