There is something profoundly Orwellian about the Great Repeal Bill, which kicks off its tortuous legislative journey this month. For the Bill essentially functions as a gigantic regulatory cut and paste of all relevant European law into UK statute.
The repeal bit actually comes later, as Parliament will legislate, over the next ten years or so, on what it wants to keep and what it wants to excise from the law.
As a corporate lobbyist, nothing I’ve seen in the last couple of decades comes close to this opportunity for legislative influence. Not the topsy-turvy early days of the Cameron-Clegg Coalition Government. Not Gordon Brown’s administration, which required so many ideas from outside because it was so devoid of its own. Not even Tony Blair’s second term, hyperactive in its legislative scope (I remember running three simultaneous campaigns on the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill alone).
No, the Great Repeal Bill and its messy aftermath may just be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for anyone looking to influence the rules of the game. There’s hardly a business or interest group in the land that will remain unaffected by decisions taken about what Britain is and isn’t going to transpose into UK law.
From privacy law to environmental regulations, from the rules governing insurance to those overseeing employment, everyone will be affected. And that’s without the thousands of niche clauses and amendments that have the potential to make or break an individual business’s bottom line.
But for businesses to really get what they need to out of the Great Repeal Bill, they need to be smart, organised and prepared. Corporate communications must be focused more than ever on the positive commercial possibilities of the new reality, and in house communications professionals will have a leading role to play in some very crunchy internal discussions in the coming months and years.
Many businesses are still understandably chafing from the fact of Brexit itself. But companies need to start getting focused – while there may be nothing they can do to prevent Britain leaving the EU, with the right approach, organisations can successfully seek to influence some truly business-critical laws in its aftermath.
Businesses may have lost the Brexit war. But they can still win the peace. The starting gun has been fired on the Lobbying Olympics. Roll up, fellow corporate communications practitioners, for the greatest show on earth.