Chamber of Commerce members have received an update from officials from the Department for International Trade on the work going on behind the scenes to process Brexit.
Officials met with two dozen businesses from West & North Yorkshire recently (January 2018), and heard about their hopes and fears, aswell as opportunities and challenges. The civil servants were keen to reassure worried businesses that they are doing all they can to avoid a ‘cliff edge’ Brexit, and that trade talks with literally dozens of countries have already taken place and will continue to do so.
The UK is aiming, via a ‘cross-border trade’ Bill, to replicate much of the current EU legislation that is benefitting the country. It is intending to do this by March 2019. This will be the implementation of so-called ‘grandfather rights’, where old rules continue to apply despite new arrangements coming into force. Members of the DIT team attending the Chamber’s meeting are part of the Government’s Trade Policy Group, which is assessing closely how the post-Brexit ‘new world’ will look.
While the International Trade Secretary’s many miles travelled and countries visited have been widely reported in the media, the officials confirmed that countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China and India were all priority targets for free trade agreements. Businesses present also pressed for other Commonwealth countries to be included. Trade missions – sometimes seen as typical of a bygone age now – could also make a comeback, while economic partnership agreements – sometimes described as an initial step towards free trade agreements – already exist between the UK and 29 other countries.
The meeting was held under the auspices of the Chamber’s Brexit Advisory Group, and chaired by Shulman’s Andrew Latchmore. The Leeds legal firm also hosted the lunchtime event, which was part of a roadshow series being held around the country to tap into the views of business and others with an interest in Brexit. The last meeting in September included representatives from the Treasury and HM Revenue & Customs.
Mike Cartwright, Policy Executive for West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said after the event:
“This series of meetings between the Chamber and government officials about Brexit and international trade are proving useful for both sets of attendees. The civil servants get to hear direct from businesses about their hopes and concerns, while our members find out just what is happening behind the scenes to advance their interests. While it is a very difficult time for the Brexit negotiators, it is also unsettling for business. However, businesses should be assured that the Chamber will keep that dialogue going between our members and government representatives to ensure that the business voice continues to be heard and listened to.”
The Chamber is soon to produce a ‘healthcheck’ guide to help its members understand and prepare for post-Brexit trading.
Picture caption: Brexit Advisory Group Chair, Andrew Latchmore, with Chamber members at Shulman’s office in Leeds, in 2017.