IoD poses 12 Brexit questions for Government

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Director General of the IoD Stephen Martin sets out 12 key questions for the Government to answer on what its objectives are for its future relationship with the EU. The questions cover a range of vital issues for business, such as the possibility of a new customs union with the EU.

Dear Prime Minister,

I write firstly to congratulate you on securing an agreement with the EU that sufficient progress has been made in the first phase of Brexit talks, allowing negotiations to move on to transitional arrangements and our future trading relationship. The business leaders who make up the IoD’s membership will be relieved to see that pragmatism came out on top.

IoD members will be particularly heartened to hear the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU assert that the chances of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit have fallen dramatically. As Cabinet meets tomorrow, the business community now needs to see the Government engaging collectively with the substance of our future trading relationship.

We understand why the Government does not want to provide a running commentary on the negotiations, or the details about its strategy. But it can and should provide an important boost to business confidence by making clear what the objectives are. We have been told that the UK will be leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union, but businesses do not know what we will be seeking as a replacement.

We support you in aiming for a deep and special partnership that reflects our shared history and starting point of economic integration with the EU. The future partnership papers published this summer by the Department for Exiting the EU were constructive starting points, but more details on the policy objectives that would underpin this new relationship are urgently needed.

With this in mind, we have set out twelve key questions that business leaders will look to the Government to address over the first few months of next year. They are areas in which clarity would be immensely helpful for our members. For example, knowing whether the Government plans to negotiate any new customs union with the EU is important for many firms who have little to no knowledge of dealing with rules of origin. Businesses are resilient, and can deal with change, but Brexit will be sweeping in its effect on the economy, and requires the Government to step up the level of information it provides to companies so that they can navigate the process as safely as possible.

A majority of IoD members export internationally and support the Government in its aim to find new trading opportunities across the globe. Our members are determined to ensure the continuing success of their organisations and that means they have to identify any risks that might arise from Brexit. This is a sensible and constructive approach from business, as mitigating risks in the short-term will help to maximise the opportunities further down the line.

We would be very grateful if you would consider the questions below as a matter of urgency:

  1. Does the Government intend to pursue any new form of customs union – full or partial in scope – with the EU?
  2. Does the Government intend to pursue any continued membership of the EU’s VAT area?
  3. What preparation is being put in place to build the infrastructure needed to manage immigration and customs at our ports and borders, as well as improve the Government’s migration monitoring data after we leave?
  4. You have stated your intention to agree an implementation period of around two years. Should negotiations on new trade arrangements go beyond March 2019, will businesses still be given a minimum period for adjustment, thereafter, once any changes have been agreed?
  5. Does the Government wish to avoid the need for introducing certain trade remedy provisions between the UK and EU (namely anti-dumping and countervailing duties)?
  6. Does the Government intend to pursue continued participation in the European Research Area or regional funding programmes such as INTERREG, both of which are open to non-EU European countries?
  7. Is the Government planning to use work permits (issued by employers) or visas (granted by the Home Office) to police the immigration of EU/EEA nationals in future?
  8. Does the Government intend to ensure the continuation of cross border services provisions, non-discrimination, and other rights to business activities which British emigrants living in the EU currently enjoy?
  9. Are there any plans being considered by the Government to help companies plan for Brexit similar to the voucher scheme being introduced by the Irish Government?
  10. Will self-assessment for compliance purposes become more of a tool for HMRC and other departments after Brexit?
  11. Will continued harmonisation of rules for product standards and testing be considered for some sectors or will mutual recognition/equivalence be the basis for the whole of the UK’s new regulatory relationship with the EU?
  12. Does the Government intend to remain compliant with the Bologna Process to ensure the Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications (MRPQ) continues after Brexit?