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BREXIT trade agreement negotiations – we can communicate the opportunities and risks you see for your business to the government departments responsible for formulating policy whilst the discussions are ongoing. Make the most of this chance to communicate your ideas, hopes and fears for import and export agreements to the negotiators.

Bored with constant discussions about Brexit when nothing is clear or certain? The news media are  talking about EU citizens’ rights, border controls, whether the European Court of Justice will continue to decide disputes and how much the UK will have to pay to leave. All factors which will affect businesses, but what about the Trade Bill, which will affect most members more directly?

Officially the Trade Bill ‘puts in place the legal framework to allow Britain to operate its own independent trade policy upon exit from the EU.’ The Government aims to support a smooth exit, benefit trade with the rest of the world and ensure business has the right tools with the correct legal base to thrive.

Which is mainly about how much the tariff on your imports and exports will be from or to each country and how long goods will take at the customs barriers – things which will potentially have huge impact on your business. An impact which could be positive, and the Department for International Trade (DIT) is already in discussion with 16 countries including Australia, China, the USA, India, Turkey, Norway, Israel and the Gulf to strike mutually beneficial trade deals outside of the EU. The DIT has reported that ‘the USA has a real appetite for a deal once they are allowed to make agreements with the UK independently of the EU’ and say that ‘open trade will be good for underdeveloped countries like Ghana and Jamaica’.

The DIT and The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) are keen to understand the priorities and concerns for post Brexit trade within your industry, in order to influence what our future relationship with the EU will look like. Trade Associations are being asked what matters to their members and what potential problems they see. Rosina Singleton, BATF COO, has recently attended a DIT Trade policy briefing event and a Brexit update from the BEIS where it was made clear that Government understands that what is finally agreed will affect different industries in different ways and is keen to understand the potential consequences of the agreements being negotiated ie, what industry wants. They have stated that ‘most businesses want standards to be the same as the EU’, but is this true for your business?

There is a 24% dependency on EU staff across the country for example, but whilst the tourism and hospitality industry, the NHS and the domestic heating and building sector anticipate problems, this is not the case in the oil and gas industry where only 5% of staff are from the EU, and businesses in the renewable and climate change industries see Brexit as positive. Training will become imperative to address skills shortages.

The DIT has said that they ‘need to be stating loudly what the UK wants the relationship with trading partners to look like in ‘Global Britain’’.

There is a level of frustration because the Government is listening and engaging but not responding or explaining at this information gathering stage of the process. Your Trade Association, through the wider BATF, is engaging with government to ensure that members views are known and that we accurately reflect all the concerns of all members not just the majority. The next stage for the Government will be to test policy options, and we hope to be able to report back to members.

BEIS is also exploring business readiness ie from the point of certainty. Asking:

‘how long would it take for traders and the logistic infrastructure to adapt?’ in order to be realistic about what business can do in what timeframe.

‘Are potential issues on the radar of small businesses?’

The BATF is keen to know your thoughts and concerns as well as any opportunities which the Government should be seeking to maximize for our industries to ensure that they are communicated clearly to the government departments responsible for formulating policy whilst the discussions are ongoing.

If you can spare a few minutes, we would appreciate you taking this brief survey. It will help us to understand the needs of the businesses that make up our industry.

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