This month marks one year out from Brexit and it has also seen some significant developments in the Article 50 process. The recent European Council meeting saw provisional agreement on transition as well as the adoption of negotiating guidelines for future trade talks. However, the UK cannot rest on its laurels just yet.
The IoD was an early proponent of the idea that some form of bridging arrangement is necessary to sidestep the ‘cliff edge’ and allow business adequate time to prepare for the withdrawal. Our members generally welcomed the progress made on transition because it maintains the status quo in trade and migration arrangements until December 2020. But the truth of the matter is there is only so much planning that business can do at this stage without having a clearer idea of the longer-term landing zone. It is also worth noting that the transition is only guaranteed once the withdrawal treaty has passed through legislative hurdles, and business needs this to happen by October at the latest.
With agreement on the implementation period signed - but not sealed - our members look forward to the start of substantive discussions on the future trade relationship. The Prime Minister’s recent Mansion House speech, in which she outlined her vision of an ambitious partnership with the EU, included an honest admission that negotiating this relationship will involve hard choices. We can only hope engagement between policymakers and business is frank and thorough as phase two unfolds.
In particular, we were pleased to see the Prime Minister making explicit reference to the need for appropriate data transfer arrangements between the UK and the EU post-Brexit. We hope this area will warrant the careful consideration it deserves in the forthcoming negotiations. Data has become a commodity for many businesses today, from collecting personal details required for making payments in e-commerce to delivering digital services such as ICT support. It is in this regard that I’m especially looking forward to the next instalment of our popular Navigating Brexit event series on Thursday 25 April. This time, a panel of experts will consider how the subject of data flows features in the Brexit negotiations and discuss opportunities for future regulatory regimes.
One of the perks of my job is that my schedule is packed with a range of different engagements to convey how Brexit might impact our membership base. At the IoD’s Open House convention earlier this month, I chaired a panel on global trade opportunities that saw panellists from the business world discussing exporting, currency risk mitigation and the transition period. I also participated at some events in Northern Ireland talking about Brexit and the Irish border problem, which included a debate about ‘smart’ border options as possible solutions. The IoD sits on the joint HMRC-industry group, the Joint Customs Consultative Committee (JCCC), which is focused on preparing for exit, such as by readying its new Customs Declarations System programme.
We will also be publishing a trade paper shortly which uses member data to deduce how and why businesses are trading internationally, as well as outlining trends in exporting. Stay tuned for its release on our Navigating Brexit hub!
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