Time to press industry’s case on Brexit

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Neutral observers must be thinking that British prime ministers have some kind of death wish. First we had David Cameron calling a referendum that he never needed to, losing, and then having to resign.

Malory Davies FCILT, Editor.

Malory Davies FCILT, Editor.

His successor Theresa May calls an election that she never needed to, and then loses her majority and is now a lame duck. It would be comical, if the issues at stake were not so serious.

No wonder Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, called it “yet another own goal”.

Brexit negotiations start 19th June – assuming that Theresa May can do a deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party that will keep her in Downing Street.

A bad Brexit deal could have a devastating impact on supply chains all across Europe. Politicians all too often think only in national terms, but modern supply chains are truly international and consequently vulnerable to the disruption that a “hard Brexit” could bring.

Not surprisingly, organisations representing UK trade and industry have seized the opportunity to push a more industry-friendly Brexit agenda.

Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, has called for a change of approach from the UK government and argues for no tariff or non-tariff barriers, regulatory equivalence, and access to the skills and labour that companies need to grow.

The Freight Transport Association wants the new government to review its decision to leave the EU Customs Union. “It is now imperative that that the new government focuses its efforts on supporting the logistics sector to ensure that business can continue to trade efficiently with our EU customers and suppliers,” said deputy chief executive James Hookham.

And manufacturers’ organisation the EEF has also called for a rethink. Chief executive Terry Scuoler said: “The Brexit negotiating strategy requires a careful rethink. Industry should be at the table, alongside whatever administration is formed, to help ensure we have the right negotiating position, which is something that’s been sadly lacking until now.”

With pro-European Damian Green becoming unofficial deputy prime minister, there is clear evidence that the industry’s arguments will get a more sympathetic hearing than before. There can be no better time to press the government on the supply chain imperatives in the Brexit negotiations.

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