It was one of the most monumental weeks in the Article 50 process so far, as the UK and EU confirmed a deal had been reached at political level.
Much of the deal remains what was negotiated by the Theresa May government – it guarantees the rights of EU nationals in the UK; it commits the UK to paying a £39 billion financial settlement; and it allows for a transition period until the end of 2020 during which the UK would continue to abide by EU rules.
The main differences involve a new protocol for arrangements in Northern Ireland, mostly around customs. Northern Ireland will be in the UK’s customs territory but will in practice be an entry point to the EU’s customs zone.
In practical terms this will mean a complex dual tariff regime whereby goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland will not be subject to tariffs unless they are “at risk” of moving to the EU thereafter. Goods that are “at risk” of moving on to the EU will be charged the EU tariff, while goods entering Northern Ireland from third countries will be subject to the UK tariff.
The text of the new protocol does not provide all of the details needed and there are questions around this arrangement that remain unanswered. For example, it is not known at this stage which goods would be exempt from the dual tariff regime, as the decisions rest at the hands of a joint UK-EU committee which is yet to be established.
But, as IoD Director General Jonathan Geldart said in recent days, businesses feel “guarded relief” at the fact that there has been a breakthrough in the Brexit talks. A snap poll conducted after the deal was published reveals a small minority of IoD members think MPs should pass the deal, while a no-deal outcome on October 31st has been rejected by 9 in 10 company directors.
During Saturday’s extraordinary parliamentary sitting MPs voted in favour of an amendment tabled by Conservative backbencher Oliver Letwin which withholds Commons approval until the necessary legislation for Brexit has been passed.
This led the government to cancel its planning meaningful vote on the deal and subsequently later that evening the Prime Minister sent letters to the EU, including an unsigned request for an Article 50 explaining he does not want a delay.
So there you have it – a Brexit breakthrough of sorts, but we are by no means at the end of the process. The IoD’s Brexit planning activities are in full swing, with a Navigating Brexit workshop on migration and labour mobility at our Pall Mall premises on Tuesday 22 October at 2-5pm. Look here for more information and to sign up.
You can also sign up to attend our next Brexit webinar on Wednesday at 1-2pm, this time looking at what impact a no-deal Brexit will have on customs and VAT. For more details and to sign up, see here.
Of course, this is just some of what we have to offer as IoD branches across the country are planning plenty of activity to help your business to prepare – just contact your local IoD for details.