The Pivot Principle

A tool for organisations planning their positions and advocacy on the UK's future relationship with the EU.

Many organisations - including SMEs in the UK or elsewhere in the EU, multinational businesses, human rights or environmental NGOs, representatives of researchers or health professionals - will conclude that, on balance, all possible designs for the UK leaving the EU will be detrimental to their interests.

At this time organisations with a strong presence in the UK will rightly be considering how their interests can best be protected in the case of a withdrawal, and will be engaging in dialogue with the UK government to this end. Organisations with a strong presence in the wider EU should also be thinking about how a period of EU political renewal can help meet their interests.

But UK politics is in a turbulent phase. The referendum result itself shocked many. In this environment, organisations need to plan for many different outcomes. Given a new understanding of the complexity of legally untangling the UK from the EU, and what is actually at stake in this process, the UK remaining in the EU cannot be ruled out. And at a certain point, a public consultation on the UK's relationship with the EU - be it a general election or a referendum on the terms of withdrawal - may become likely or certain.

Organisations that consider their interests best served by the UK remaining in the EU should thus consider, as one of their options, a plan to pivot their public positions and advocacy towards support for remaining. In order to ensure credibility in this case, organisations should take care in the meantime to ensure that their positions do not compromise such a future pivot.

Of course, this may not always be possible - the chances of withdrawing or remaining will rise and fall, different scenarios will appear more likely at different times, and organisations need to be flexible enough to promote their interests in any given situation. However, for an organisation whose interests are best served by the UK remaining, any statement of this sort needs to be made on the basis of a judgement on the benefits or risks at that time. 'The pivot principle' is not dogma, but rather a practical tool in strategic planning or tactical advocacy.

Organisations that keep their options open on this basis are not engaging in denial or wishful thinking. They are responsibly planning to protect the interests of those they serve.

VC, Brussels, September 2016

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