13 February 2019
Companies are being “hung out to dry” over the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, according to the region’s leading business representation organisation.
With fewer than 50 days until 29 March, when the UK is due to leave the EU, East Midlands Chamber says there are 20 key questions that remain unresolved.
They include how to move skilled staff between the UK and EU, which rules to follow and what trade deals will be in place, it says.
The British Chambers of Commerce has challenged the Government over the questions. The Government has said it is focused on getting approval for its Brexit deal.
Prime Minister Theresa May is currently seeking changes to her Brexit deal with the EU after it was rejected last month.
She needs to get a deal approved by Parliament by 29 March to avoid a no-deal Brexit.
In the event that no deal is agreed, in countries where the UK had no formal trade agreement both would have to trade under the rules overseen by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Under this system, every WTO member is free to negotiate its own tariffs – or taxes – on different goods. But under the rules, members have to offer the same tariff to every other WTO country.
The UK has signed continuity agreements with Switzerland, Chile, The Faroe Islands and Eastern and Southern Africa. As a result, free trade agreements currently in place between the EU and those countries will apply to the UK after Brexit.
Mutual recognition agreements – where a product lawfully sold in one country can be sold in another – have been signed with Australia and New Zealand.
East Midlands Chamber, which represents over 4,000 regional businesses, says its members – along with members of other Chambers around the country – are hugely concerned that the UK is not prepared for all eventualities.
And it warned that the lack of clarity over what will happen had already stifled investment and growth.
“There is a very real risk that a lack of clear, actionable information from Government will leave firms, their people and their communities hung out to dry,” said Chamber Chief Executive Scott Knowles.
He said firms remained in the dark over crucial issues including contracts and customs tariffs.
“Businesses need answers they can base decisions on, no matter what the eventual outcome,” he added.