Tuesday, 3 July 2018
Time is running out for answers to real-world business questions over Brexit
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has today (Tuesday) published the two-dozen top real-world questions being asked on Brexit by businesses across the UK.
It says Government has managed to make limited progress on just two of the issues where clarity is urgently needed so firms can plan their trade following the UK’s departure from the EU.
In the aftermath of June’s European Council summit – with little progress made in narrowing the gap between the two sides – and ahead of Cabinet deliberations later this week on the UK’s negotiating stance, the BCC warns that continued uncertainty on firms’ day-to-day questions is causing a significant slowdown in business investment.
The leading business organisation is calling on Government to draw a line under internal political debate and deliver urgent clarity on the practical, detailed issues that underpin trade – or face a continued deterioration in investment intentions and confidence as the clock ticks down to the October deadline to complete the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement.
As negotiations progress, Chambers of Commerce will be assessing progress against these questions. To date, businesses have had some assurances on the status of EU nationals in the UK workforce and on the industrial standards regime – hence the ‘amber’ ratings for these two issues.
On tax - whether a business will need to pay VAT on goods at point of import, and will services firms need to be registered in every EU Member State where it has clients
On tariffs - what Rules of Origin firms will have to comply with to receive preferential tariff rates
On customs - whether goods will be subject to new procedures, and delayed at border checkpoints
On regulation - whether checks on goods conducted in the UK will be recognised by the EU
On mobility - whether businesses will be able to transfer staff between the EU and the UK using the same processes as currently
On R&D projects - whether UK businesses will be able to participate in EU projects after 2020.
BCC warns that time is of the essence – with many firms making contingency plans or considering investment alternatives.
Scott Knowles, Chief Executive at East Midlands Chamber*, said: “Everything that the BCC is raising concerns about holds true for East Midlands businesses too.
“Over the past two years, businesses have been patient. They have supported the Government’s drive to seek the best possible deal for the UK economy. They have given time, expertise and real-world experience to support hard-pressed civil service negotiators. The BCC has worked all across the UK, through the East Midlands Chamber in this region, to ensure that elected representatives and officials can hear every business community’s concerns about Brexit.
“Now, with the time running out ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU, business patience is reaching breaking point.
“Businesses have every right to speak out when it is abundantly clear that the practical questions affecting the competitiveness of their firms and the livelihoods of millions of people remain unanswered. With less than nine months go to until Brexit day, we are little closer today to the answers businesses need than we were the day after the referendum.
“It’s time for politicians to stop bickering and start putting the national economic interest first. These are not ‘siren voices’ or special interests, they are the practical, real-world concerns of businesses of every size and sector, in every part of the UK.”