U.K. Industry Seeks Pro-Business Brexit Deal as Talks Kick OffBy
Groups call for single-market access, deal on migrants’ rights
Transitional agreement essential if no deal in two years: CBI
U.K. industry groups renewed calls for a trade-friendly Brexit settlement as Prime Minister Theresa May opened two years of negotiations on leaving the European Union after alarming some business leaders by signaling a clean break.
The Confederation of British Industry urged the government to guarantee the rights of EU workers already in the U.K. while negotiating the country’s departure from the bloc. Should it not be possible to reach an agreement on Britain’s relationship with the EU within two years, a transitional arrangement should be put in place, the business lobby said in comments that were echoed by Ford Motor Co.’s European arm.
“No deal would be the very worst case for the U.K. auto industry and would put at risk the competitiveness of the industry,” the company said in a statement.
May has said no deal would be better than a bad deal. In that case, commerce between the U.K. and the EU would be governed by World Trade Organization rules.
EU President Donald Tusk said Wednesday that he had received a letter signed by May, triggering a treaty provision that sets formal exit negotiations into motion. May has said she wants to reduce immigration and leave the EU’s single market while securing the “best possible” access for businesses to it.
The British Chambers of Commerce said negotiating the U.K.’s exit and a new trade deal at the same time would minimize adjustment costs for British companies. Even so, Brexit should not be the sole focus of government, according to the group, which wants to see investment in training and lower property taxes for businesses.
“Businesses across the U.K. and their trading partners in Europe want answers to practical questions, not political posturing,” Adam Marshall, director-general of the BCC, said in a statement. “A pragmatic and grown-up dialogue on the real-world issues, rather than verbal volleys between London and Brussels, would give firms greater confidence over the next two years.”
The British Retail Consortium warned of the threat of higher prices if tariffs are imposed, after U.K. shopkeepers have already begun raising prices in response to the drop in the pound.
The Federation of Small Businesses echoed calls for clarity about the future conditions governing trade with the EU and the hiring of workers from the bloc. One-third of U.K. small businesses that export have said they would be deterred from trading with the EU if tariffs of 2 percent to 4 percent were imposed, the group said.
“The government must push for a comprehensive free-trade agreement with the EU based on ease and cost,” federation Chairman Mike Cherry said in a statement.
BritishAmerican Business, which represents companies that operate on both sides of the Atlantic, said it’s essential for the U.K. to keep an open trade relationship with the bloc, given U.S. companies’ dependence on Britain as an entree to the continent.
“If you ask what we want, we want single-market access,” Jeffries Briginshaw, chief executive officer of BritishAmerican Business, told U.K. lawmakers.