AS we enter the final month of the year, it’s always interesting to reflect on all that has passed, and to look ahead to 2018.

In January, I shared my hopes for 2017 - that we would begin to understand the implications of the Brexit vote and we would see some sorely-needed stability for businesses in this region.

While the last six months have been rather more sedate than first half of the year, stable is certainly not the word I would use to describe it.

Loading article content

Things have somewhat slowed and settled since June when we saw a snap election aimed at pouring oil into troubled waters and providing the nation with a stronger Government with a larger majority.

Theresa May's gamble did not pay off and we have been left with a weaker Government, with a reduced majority - no clear majority in fact - and seemingly, without a clear plan when it comes to Brexit negotiations.

In the context of such ongoing instability, it is incumbent upon us, as the business community, to deliver the steadfast leadership that is needed to steer UK Plc through these choppy waters.

At Nifco, despite the political and economic uncertainty that exists, we have been able to maintain a solid performance by concentrating on our business.

The year ahead will no doubt present similar political turbulence.

So, the challenge for us, as businesses, will be to prepare for that and to stabilise our companies, ensuring they are exposed to the minimum level of risk when we leave the EU and begin trading under whatever new conditions are agreed.

Some larger companies are already preparing for Brexit.

Importers and exporters are preparing for increased lead times, increased warehousing is being planned for just in time operations, and possible customs delays are being considered, alongside forecasted significant increases in import and export duty, recovery paperwork and bureaucracy.

So, it would be naïve to enter 2018 without expecting challenges.

I think most business leaders will always begin a new year understanding that not all will be plain sailing.

My hope though, as it was last year, is that Government does what it can to create the most stable conditions possible in the circumstances, to support businesses in their endeavours.

Essentially, we are looking for strong leadership and a united Government with a clear plan.

Until we have that, we’ll need to prepare our businesses for further uncertainty and aim for stability in 2018, rather than aspire to success.

I wish everyone a happy Christmas, and a prosperous new year.

Mike Matthews is managing director of Eaglescliffe-based car parts maker Nifco UK