Brexit: UK businesses' patience at 'breaking point' as progress on trade talks stalls

Lack of clarity already causing 'significant slowdown in business investment' says British Chambers of Commerce

Ben Chapman
Tuesday 03 July 2018 07:42 BST
What could the sticking points be in the Brexit trade deal?

The patience of UK businesses is reaching “breaking point” and time is running out for the government to answer key questions over Brexit, a leading industry group has warned.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) compiled a list of 23 points on which firms urgently need clarity and said the government has only begun to partially deliver on two of them.

It warned that inaction from Theresa May’s team was causing a “significant slowdown in business investment” as firms hold off due to uncertainty over simple questions about their day-to-day operations once the UK leaves the EU in March next year.

For example, the BCC’s members want to know if they will need to pay VAT on goods at the point of import, and whether services firms need to be registered in every EU member state where they have clients.

On tariffs, firms need clarity on which “rules of origin” they will have to comply with to receive preferential rates.

Another key query is whether goods will be subject to new customs procedures or delayed at border checkpoints.

On regulation, firms are demanding to know whether checks on goods conducted in the UK will be recognised by the EU.

They also want to know whether businesses will be able to transfer staff between the EU and the UK using the same processes as they currently do.

The warning comes as a number of firms have expressed doubt about their future in the UK if negotiations do not progress and bring some clarity to the situation after Brexit.

Airbus warned it could leave the UK if a trade deal isn’t agreed, while BMW’s boss Ian Robertson said his company, which makes the Mini and Rolls-Royce cars in Britain, needed clarity by the end of the summer.

Adam Marshall, director general of the BCC, said businesses had been patient and supportive of the government’s approach so far.

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“Now, with the time running out ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU, business patience is reaching breaking point,” Mr Marshall said.

“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 to the answers businesses need than we were the day after the referendum.

“It’s time for politicians to stop the squabbling and the Westminster point-scoring – 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.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “We’re confident of getting a good deal with the EU to ensure trade remains as free and frictionless as possible.

“Ministers continue to work closely with business to understand their concerns and by successfully negotiating the implementation period with the EU until December 2020, companies can carry on trading with confidence on the same terms as they do now.

“We have put forward workable proposals to the EU on a range of areas from the backstop to security and the white paper, which will be published shortly, will continue to drive this process forward.”

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