Expert Urges Businesses to Keep Eyes on Brexit Ball

An international logistics expert has urged British businesses
to keep their eyes on the Brexit ball, despite the government
apparently trying to reduce public attention on the issue.

Adam Johnson, director of Leeds-based Tudor International
Freight, said government messaging had emerged since last month’s
general election effectively echoing the Conservatives’ campaign
slogan that returning the party to power would mean “getting
Brexit done” when the UK leaves the EU on 31 January.

This was despite talks covering almost the entire future
relationship between Britain and the bloc only being scheduled to
begin following our departure.

Mr Johnson said: “One relevant post-election development was
the government’s confirmation that the dedicated Department for
Exiting the EU, and therefore the House of Commons Brexit select
committee, will be abolished at the end of this month. In addition,
media reports have stated Prime Minister Boris Johnson has banned
officials from using the word ‘Brexit’, that Downing Street
will not refer to a future ‘deal’ with the EU, and that number
10’s dedicated Brexit press team will be renamed, from February
onwards.

“The government is also apparently planning to deny Parliament
oversight of the talks ahead and a vote on extending the
post-Brexit transition period, which it’s committed to ending on
31 December this year.”

Mr Johnson said these developments suggested the Prime Minister
was trying to position the forthcoming negotiations as just another
aspect of foreign and economic policy, of real interest only to
specialists. However, in truth, they would be of massive
importance, including to businesses, as they would cover
Britain’s future trading arrangements with the EU.

He said: “One potential reason for the government’s apparent
positioning that Brexit is all-but over is it wants to try and
reduce scrutiny of the agreements the Prime Minister will make with
the EU in the months ahead. This is because, whether he sticks to
his guns or makes concessions, he’s likely to upset significant
audiences at home.”

Mr Johnson said if, on the one hand, the Prime Minister was true
to his word and agreed a distant future trading relationship with
the EU, merely like the one the bloc had with Canada, British
businesses would face increased costs and administrative burdens,
plus probably lower sales.

He said: “Britain’s economy overall is likely to be damaged
in these circumstances, because of factors such as the EU currently
buying almost half our exports, whereas it purchases only about
eight per cent of Canada’s. This consideration has acquired new
significance since the general election, as among the areas likely
to be hardest by such a Brexit are the former Labour constituencies
in areas such as the English north and midlands that the government
is understandably proud of having won.”

Alternatively, Mr Johnson said, the Prime Minister changing tack
and agreeing a closer future trading relationship with the EU would
be unpopular with the more extreme Brexiters, in his party and
elsewhere.

He said: “Such concessions are likely to be needed, however,
if any comprehensive agreement is to be reached with a more
powerful partner within the existing transition period. This
timescale implies a window for these demanding and detailed talks
– officially aimed at producing agreements not just on trade but
also financial services, fishing, Northern Ireland and data issues
– only from March to around October.

“Many experts also believe these retreats will be necessary if
the Conservatives are to fund their general election spending
pledges, such as an extra £34bn a year for the NHS by the end of
the Parliament and investing £29bn in strategic roads.”

Mr Johnson said another possible reason for the government
suggesting Brexit would be largely over this month was a desire to
maximise the interval, and thus the connection in the public mind,
between perceived completion and any negative effects of its
intended deal, such as corporate relocations and job losses,
becoming apparent. He said the Prime Minister may also be trying to
obscure the fact that leading members of the Leave campaign
suggested before the 2016 referendum that a trade deal with the EU
would be in place by the time the UK left it, a claim which has
proved undeliverable.

He said despite these and any additional official signals, such
as the reintroduction of blue passports and issuing of
commemorative coins, British businesses should not believe the
Brexit process was now virtually complete.

Mr Johnson said: “It’s not a happy portent the Prime
Minister reportedly used a four-letter word to describe his view of
business, in June 2018, when asked about its fears over a hard
Brexit. Companies and their representative bodies should therefore
maintain the pressure on him in the coming months to secure a deal
which does the least possible damage to their interests and our
economic prosperity, as there’s still much to play for.”

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Expert Urges Businesses to Keep Eyes on Brexit Ball
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Source: FS – Transport B.
Expert Urges Businesses to Keep Eyes on Brexit Ball



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