Boards - 17 January 2017

Business in D2N2 LEP area reacts to Prime Minister’s ‘Brexit’ speech

Business organisations across the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership’s area have been giving their reaction to Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech on ‘Brexit’, given today (January 17).

Mrs May gave her most in-depth speech to date on Britain’s vision for leaving the European Union, following the EU Referendum vote to do so on June 23 last year (2016), at Lancaster House in London this lunchtime; before an audience of media, Government Ministers and European nations’ representatives.

The Prime Minister began her speech by saying, “I want us to be a truly Global Britain”; before giving the 12 priorities, which the UK government will use to steer through a ‘Brexit’ deal:

  • certainty
  • control of our own laws
  • strengthening the United Kingdom
  • maintaining the Common Travel Area with Ireland
  • control of immigration
  • guaranteeing rights for EU nationals already living in Britain, and British nationals in living in EU states
  • enhancing rights for workers
  • free trade with European markets
  • new trade agreements with other countries
  • a leading role in science and innovation
  • co-operation on crime, terrorism and foreign affairs
  • a smooth and orderly Brexit.

Highlights of Mrs May’s speech included:

  • Confirmation that any final deal agreed between the UK and the EU would be put to a vote in both Houses of Parliament.
  • That Britain will seek to guarantee the rights of EU citizens already living in Britain, and the rights of British nationals living in other member states, as quickly as possible.
  • Britain to leave the European Single Market (formerly known as the common market) – current membership of which commits Britain to accepting free movement of goods, capital, services and people between EU member states – whilst pursuing a new free trade agreement with EU member states.
  • Pursuing new trade agreements with non-EU countries. Mrs May said China, Brazil, and the Gulf States had already expressed an interest in striking trade deals with Britain; and that discussions on future trade ties were ongoing with Australia, New Zealand and India, and that the United States had promised the UK would be first in line under President Trump.
  • Britain not to be part of the Common Commercial Policy and Common External Tariff elements – respectively, the EU’s right to negotiate a collective trade agreement on its members’ behalf with external countries, and the agreed tariffs and duties imposed by all EU member states on external goods coming into the EU – of the Customs Union; the trade agreement between EU states (and selected non-EU countries) not to impose tariffs (taxes on imports) on each other’s goods. Mrs May said Britain would still want to maintain a form of customs agreement with the EU.

The Prime Minister said that she would want to see the terms of the UK’s future partnership with the EU settled within two years of Article 50 being triggered; Britain’s formal notice that it wishes to leave the EU, which is set to be initiated by the Government this spring (2017).

She added: “From that point onwards we believe a phased process of implementation, in which both Britain and the EU institutions and member states prepare for the new arrangements that will exist between us, will be in our mutual self-interest.

“This will give businesses enough time to plan and prepare for those new arrangements”

Following Mrs May’s speech today, Scott Knowles, Chief Executive of the East Midlands Chamber, welcomed Mrs May’s commitment to continuing free trade between Britain and the EU after Brexit; and that Britain should remain at the forefront of science and innovation, attracting the best minds from elsewhere in the world for this and other vital sectors in the UK.

“Mrs May has set out a position that indicates that she does have business interests at heart, which is something we have said from the outset should be a driving force in Brexit negotiations.

“We are still walking an unknown path, but it was good to hear Mrs May stress that free trade means more trade, more jobs, more wealth and more growth, barriers to free trade mean the opposite and that it would be a ‘calamitous’ decision to offer a punitive deal to the UK just to dissuade other countries from leaving the EU,” added Mr Knowles.

Mike Cherry, national Chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses – which has a Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire branch – was at Mrs May’s speech and said afterwards: “Today’s announcement is the starting point for a pro-business Brexit.  We now want to see concerted action to address trade, talent and transitional arrangements.

“Ninety-three per cent of our members export directly to the Single Market. Our members want to see this bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement (FTA) so that they can continue to trade and operate within European markets.

“However, we will push the Government to guarantee whatever transition process is put in place ensures there is no cliff edge or gap in trade.”

Before and since the June 2016 EU Referendum on Brexit, the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership has been supporting businesses in its area (of Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire) with unbiased information on the potential consequences and benefits of Britain exiting the EU, and how this might affect them.

Ahead of the Referendum, the LEP commissioned and made available (in early 2016) an independent report on the Brexit question for business – entitled The Implications for D2N2 Businesses of a UK Exit from the European Union – written by respected economic and business consultancy, Ekosgen.

Since the Referendum vote, D2N2 has been speaking to Ministers due to be involved in the Brexit negotiations, to lobby for the best deal for businesses in its area.

In October (2016) D2N2 Chief Executive David Ralph joined East Midlands Chamber, Leicester and Leicestershire LEP, and Geldards law firm representatives in meeting Lord George Bridges – Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Government Department for Exiting the European Union – in Nottingham. They lobbied for Government to consult with business on Brexit and to emphasise the importance of immigration, for British companies to recruit the skilled people needed to stimulate growth. Pictured above, left to right, are David Williams, Chairman of Geldards; Nick Pulley, Chair of Leicester & Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership; Lord Bridges; EMC Chief Executive Scott Knowles and D2N2’s David Ralph.

Following Mrs May’s speech today, Mr Ralph commented: “There remain many unknowns with regard to Britain’s exit from the European Union. How smoothly that process will go will affect the decisions of businesses for at least the next two years.

“However,adaptability is in the DNA of of our area and the region’s businesses, and I remain confident that they will rise to the challenge.”

To read the Prime Minister’s speech in full go to the Gov.UK website link HERE.

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