The IoD’s head of Europe and trade policy, Allie Renison, welcomes the progress the UK and EU have made during the first phase of Brexit talks and urges firms to make plans for the coming financial year
There is a tendency for the noise surrounding the Brexit negotiations to drown out the incremental progress that’s being made day by day.
I am the last person to discount the challenges and strains imposed by the task of sorting out our departure, but negativity naturally finds its way to the front pages more easily than breakthroughs.
At a time when there are far more questions than answers about how the UK will – or should – leave the EU, much of this is to be expected. So it was a relief for the IoD to be able to laud some substantial progress at December’s EU summit on citizens’ rights in particular as the first phase of negotiations came to an end.
Both sides are working to translate the commitments made in their joint report – on protecting the residency and related rights for EU nationals living in the UK and British nationals living in the EU before Brexit day (29 March 2019) – into legislation as soon as possible.
It should provide a measure of relief to employers and employees alike that the process for regularising their post-Brexit status in the UK is under way.
This routinely tops the polls for IoD members as the most pressing priority for negotiations, so I welcomed the chance to discuss the matter in greater detail with members at our latest IoD Brexit webinar on 25 January.
The EU and the UK are turning their focus to doing a deal on transition, which they hope to sign no later than March. Both sides are aiming to agree a period of at least two years beyond March 2019 where there will be no changes to current trade or migration arrangements until a new system comes into force.
While this may not prevent all businesses from deploying Brexit-related contingency plans before then, we know from our own research that the vast majority of you have not put any in place yet.
It’s therefore important to take this no-change commitment into account when you’re planning for your next financial year. We hope that it will encourage directors to carry on doing business as usual, allow for investment decisions to be taken and provide a measure of certainty in an increasingly uncertain world.
This year will see a long-overdue move from rhetoric to policy discussions on our new relationship with the EU. It often feels as though the discourse has been dominated by red lines and what the UK does not want, rather than a clear picture of what it does.
Companies need clarity about whether the government intends to form a new customs union with the EU, or whether rules of origin will apply to trade in goods with Europe.
If there is no intention to continue participating in the EU’s regulatory agencies or its VAT area, inevitable changes to how businesses operate will result.
As we finally move on to discuss the future rather than just our exit, the negotiations will only get tougher. But, 18 months after the UK’s vote to leave, I for one am glad that those choices are upon us.
Related articles on Brexit
Keep up to date
Visit the IoD’s Brexit hub to read the latest news and reports from the IoD Policy team
Become a member of the IoD
The IoD has a range of memberships for directors, founders and co-founders, providing all the resources and facilities needed to enhance your business. To find out more about membership offerings and to join today, visit iod.com/membership