24 June 2018 | Online since 2003

5 June 2018

BEIC Comment - June 2018

Just when you think that there is progress on Brexit, something happens to muddy the waters once again. We have seen a number of defeats for the government over the EU Withdrawal Bill in the House of Lords. 

The provisional timeline for a deal to be done means there needs to be progress by this October. At the quarterly EU summit, which is the target date to agree a withdrawal treaty, tying up legal loose ends for departure such as the rights of citizens, mutual financial commitments and how to resolve the Irish border issue are due to be completed. It will also contain the transition deal and be accompanied by a separate “political declaration” outlining the broad terms of a free trade accord and other relationships to follow that.
In January 2019, EU and British parliaments must ratify the withdrawal treaty before Brexit. To avoid last-minute jitters, getting that done at least two months ahead of time would help.
It is unclear if these dates will be met and this increasingly means an uncertain time for businesses, delays on investment, and a tighter timeline to prepare. 
Planning for it seems impossible. Businesses that sell and buy from the EU need to have contingency plans in place which will need to be flexible to cope with a variety of possible outcomes. Are you prepared? People, supply chains, compliance, are all among the things you need to consider. 
Customs declarations might need to be completed at the EU and UK borders. The UK is implementing a new electronic customs declaration system, due to be launched in 2019. Even if the UK has a free-trade agreement with the EU, it may still be necessary to be up to date with the customs system.
It also looks likely that EU nationals who are already resident in the UK will be allowed to stay. Future business-related migration, however, could be harder and may be brought into line with the process of bringing in employees from outside the EU. As agriculture, we must do more to attract people into the industry. 
We are at a key point in the negotiations, but we still await a crystallisation as businesses need to make decisions for the future.