Business and City Reactions to the Chequer's White Paper
Influential City and business organisations have commented on the Prime Minister’s Brexit White Paper arising from the Chequers plan. The City of London Corporation, the lobby group The City UK, the CBI and the IoD all commented on the aspects of the Government’s chosen path to EU exit.
The Director-General of the IoD, Stephen Martin said, “this White Paper puts some vital meat on the bones of the Chequers plan.” However, he felt that the proposed customs arrangements, the proposed free trade area in goods with the EU and VAT arrangements needed more clarity as businesses are holding back on their Brexit strategies whilst waiting for more detail in these vital areas. Mr. Martin also felt that the government had “missed a trick” in holding back on in several areas and particularly needs to inform the financial services sector on a whole raft of issues, such as what will replace freedom of movement as the mobility of specialist talent across Europe is critical to the City’s pool of expertise.
Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI Director-General, congratulated the Prime Minister on the proposed handling of a number of issues highlighted in the White Paper saying “businesses on both sides have been asking for frictionless trade between the UK and EU, and shared rules could go a long way towards delivering that. It is now the EU’s turn to put economics before ideology on these proposals. “ Ms. Fairbairn went on to say that the maintenance of free-flowing data, mutual recognition of qualifications and mobility for skilled workers across the EU made sense for both sides.
However, she further commented ““But there are gaps in these proposals and more detail is needed on EU VAT, some services sectors and the new customs system. It will be a make or break summer. It’s vitally important UK negotiators get their heads down and work with businesses to grapple with the detail and get it right.
“With three months left to go, it is now a race against time. The EU must now engage constructively and flexibly, as must politicians from all UK parties. This is a matter of national interest. There’s not a day to lose.”
The City organisations were far less happy and more critical of the White Paper. The City of London Corporation’s chair, Catherine McGuiness, went so far as to say “The UK government’s preferred path forward with the EU is a real blow for the UK’s financial and related professional services sector”, further commenting “With looser trade ties to Europe, the financial and related professional services sector will be less able to create jobs, generate tax and support growth across the wider economy. It’s that simple. Time is running out so it is essential that the pace of negotiations accelerates to ensure an orderly Brexit.”
The Lobby group TheCityUK was equally upset, pointing out that the financial and associated professional services firms’ major concern is how they will be able to continue to assist their clients. A spokesman stated that “mutual recognition would have been the best way to achieve this. It’s therefore regrettable and frustrating that this approach has been dropped before even making it to the negotiating table.” TheCityUK also points out that Brexit was always going to present a problem with access to the EU market, making an effective and secure future regulatory relationship all the more important. TheCityUK pointed out that urgent issues such as contract continuity and the future relationship must be dealt with as a matter of urgency.
With time rapidly running out and with a considerable number of vital issues still remaining unresolved there will have to be a concerted effort on the part of both the UK government and the EU negotiators to provide coherent workable solutions that satisfy all countries, industry sectors and individuals working within the soon to be created system.
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