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What impact has Brexit had on hiring in public affairs?

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In the three years since the EU referendum, politics has been in a permanent state of flux, while the value of the pound has ensured a wild ride for traders and the public have waited patiently for a game-plan.

Understandably, businesses across Britain’s industries have felt the impact of uncertainty: whether we leave with a deal or without one, the regulatory landscape will inevitably shift, requiring leaders to rethink their strategies and potentially re-evaluate their supply chains. Meanwhile, member states of the EU are using Brexit to redefine EU priorities and position themselves as economically competitive.

All in all, the complexities born from Brexit have raised a number of questions for all organisations  based in the UK or with trading interests with Britain. In order to assess the short, medium and long-term impact of Brexit on their operations, business leaders are increasingly seeking out those with the political intelligence necessary to advise and support them through the transition.

If there’s one sector that has thrived from the uncertainty created by Brexit, it’s public affairs. Increasingly, C-suite executives are looking to specialist recruiters in this field, who can use their networks to find someone capable of steering them through choppy waters. For public affairs practitioners, exposure to a wide variety of clients has certainly been a silver lining of the turbulence that the UK has endured following the referendum.

Already, nearly £100m of taxpayer money has been spent by the government on private consultancy firms to provide assistance in navigating complex political landscapes including no-deal contingency plans. This is according to a draft report by the National Audit Office (NAO), which shows significant growth in spending on consultants beyond Brexit, rising from £513m in 2015-16 to £1.54bn in 2017-18. With the threat of no deal still looming, £2.1bn has further been set aside by the treasury as additional funding for such a scenario.

While divisions in the Conservative party will still make passing a no deal difficult, the volatile political climate will undoubtedly continue to provide opportunities for public affairs professionals to lend their expertise to multinational companies looking to invest in the UK market.

At a launch event at the Harris Westminster Sixth Form school in London earlier this year, the former international trade secretary Liam Fox said being a professional negotiator was a "career option that hasn't really existed for two generations" - as deal-making has been carried out by the European Union.

As such, an evident skills shortage within Whitehall’s resources has led to a hiring spree from the UK government, who started the year with a flurry of job advertisements detailing their need for policy advisors on Brexit. The vacancies, posted to sites such as LinkedIn and GuardianJobs, were for senior policy advisers, a regulatory cooperation head, and team leaders able “to provide strategic direction, influential management, [and] agile thinking”.

As we gear up towards our new exit date of October 31st with a new Prime Minister whose stance on Brexit is effectively do or die, there’s at least one thing we can be certain on: the recruitment drive for public affairs professionals won’t be slowing down any time soon.

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