Now that Britain has formally left the EU, UK trade policy is well and truly under the spotlight – and there is no stakeholder more important in this debate than the UK’s director community.
While the transition period means that there will be no changes to import and export practices until 1st January 2021, 2020 will not be a quiet year by any measure. Importantly, the Government has to use this year to establish what the UK wants from international trade going forward.
The Prime Minister’s speech last week – his first since the UK officially left the EU – outlined his vision for the UK as a champion for “global free trade”. In this role, Britain will embark on trade negotiations not just with the EU, but also with other partners, including the United States and Japan. Working out what shape these deals could take in practice will be the next step.
It goes without saying that the timescales render this a challenge, and it is vital that the UK gets its house in order first. Trade policy infiltrates every sphere of our lives – from standards and regulation to privacy to the UK’s role in the world, and Britain needs consensus on its own side before our civil servants take a seat at the negotiating table.
To achieve this, the Government must ensure it consults with a wide variety of stakeholders. As it is companies that will be at the coalface of any changes, UK directors have a key voice in this debate.
At the IoD, we are here to make that voice heard. In our latest report, Issues for Action: Global Business, we set out our members’ asks for global trade as a whole, from financial assistance for smaller firms to adjust to the post-Brexit landscape, to a cross-government ‘Single Window’ to streamline import and export procedures.
Now, we want to find out your priorities for the upcoming UK-EU negotiations. If you are already a member of Policy Voice – our monthly survey platform – you should have received an invitation for our latest survey. If not, we encourage you to sign up here.
The results will be crucial as we campaign on your behalf in the months ahead, and really land in meetings with ministers and key officials. We also understand the Government is particularly keen to hear specific examples of how British companies would be impacted by changes to trading arrangements, so please do share your own experience.
The Government has also launched some direct public consultations related to its trade policy – on the UK’s tariff regime and freeports. Reports suggest the Chancellor will also launch a consultation into the ‘EU Red Tape Challenge’ as part of the Budget next month. We would encourage all IoD members to engage with these consultations too where possible.
There’s no doubt that the months and years ahead will be decisive in terms of the economic future of the UK. It’s important now more than ever to make your voice heard!
Claudia Catelin is the IoD's EU and Trade Policy Advisor
Claudia joined the IoD in August 2017 to work on EU and trade policy. Previously, she worked at the American Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and in the Board of Directors at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Claudia also formerly worked for Newsfirst as French news editor. Claudia has Australian and British citizenship and a Master of Science in European Studies from the London School of Economics. She is fluent in French and Spanish.