- U.K. would need skilled negotiators fast, lawmaker panel says
- Foreign Office budget may need to be doubled to meet the cost
If Britain leaves the European Union, it’s going to need negotiators, and lots of them. Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee thinks it knows where it can find them: London’s financial sector.
A vote on June 23 for a so-called Brexit would leave Britain facing the prospect of negotiating trade agreements with more than 50 countries, as well as its new status with the EU, the cross-party panel of lawmakers said in a report published Tuesday. With Britain not having negotiated a free-trade agreement of its own in more than 40 years, the government would, it said, have to acquire the skills “in a hurry and to scale.”
The committee saw two places where the government would be able to go: international legal firms, “who would benefit from a substantial temporary consultancy requirement,” and the City of London.
“Committing significant resources to hiring teams of skilled negotiators to manage the EU withdrawal process and to pursue new international agreements and FTAs would go some way towards ensuring successful outcomes,” the report said. “London probably possesses the largest global concentration of such ability in its legal and financial-services firms.”
The cost of all this would be substantial: The committee envisages a doubling or even trebling of the Foreign Office’s current 1 billion-pound ($1.5 billion) annual budget.