Talk about irony. At 9 am this morning I had a telephone call from a gentleman who works for the European Commission in Brussels. He asked me whether I would be interested in participating in a session at the Commission procurement conference in Berlin in October.
I did of course immediately ask whether the invitation still stood even after the result of the EU Referendum, and he said “yes, of course”, which was a relief! So we can hope that the divorce of the UK from the EU is not going to be too immediate or too hostile. But I think many of us are quite shocked this morning in the UK. I was not strongly on one side or the other, I could see all the arguments in both directions. But if I had guessed, I thought at the end we would vote “Remain” although I did think it would be close.
However, I believe the factors that swung the argument were a general discontent about the “political class”, issues around inequality, worries about immigration, and the sense that for many of our fellow citizens, there has been no improvement in their economic situation or the quality of their lives for quite a few years now. It also shows just how different London is now compared to the rest of England, which is a worry.
In terms of Public Spend Forum, nothing will change really. It will be many years before UK public procurement diverges much from the EU model, if indeed it ever does. And there may be more need for advice and thinking around good practice as we make that transition over the next few years. So plenty of topics for us to consider, I suspect.