Brexit - One Year to Go
29 March 2018
With one year to go until the UK leaves the EU, PwC supported an Institute for Government debate bringing together speakers and guests from business and government. To watch a video of the event click here.
12 months from today the UK will no longer be a member of the European Union. And following the publication of the EU guidelines at last week’s summit, we certainly have a clearer idea of what Brexit will mean. This week at the Institute for Government, we reflected on the progress made so far, the areas where there are still hurdles to an agreement and the opportunities for the UK over the next 12 months and beyond.
Since the Referendum result, there has been much uncertainty around the scope and nature of the final Brexit deal. Sir John Grant kicked off the panel event by pointing out that quite a lot has been helpfully clarified by the publication of the negotiating guidelines. It highlights areas of common agreement and also reveals the opportunities for the UK and the EU to work together on truly innovative solutions to deliver the kind of bespoke deal envisaged. For him, time is the major factor in delivering on these opportunities. For instance, many of the innovative tech based solutions that the UK has earmarked to respond to Brexit’s biggest challenges such as on borders and customs will take time to deliver: time that is now running short.
The CBI’s Carolyn Fairbairn echoed this, pointing out that businesses prize greater certainty and that making ‘hard choices’ is helpful to inform future investment decisions. According to her, effective engagement between business and government provides the opportunity to ensure the best outcome for the UK, recognising that to date such engagement has been ‘creaky but getting better’. The challenge for government is how to put in place the appropriate architecture for such business engagement on issues like trade. Getting this right will be vital to getting a deal with the EU that works for UK businesses.
Jill Rutter from the Institute for Government highlighted this as a challenge for officials too at a time when government has not had the concrete proposals with which to constructively engage. In addition, she set out the other substantial hurdles remaining including Ireland, governance of the agreement (including the role of the ECJ) as well as the significant volume and complexity of legislation yet to be passed.
On a political level, there are also a series of trade offs that will be necessary for success. As The Telegraph's Juliet Samuel pointed out, much of the politics around the biggest Brexit challenges are very emotive. Fisheries policy, for example, is an issue where the politics far outweigh the economics. In terms of GDP fisheries comprise a very small part of the UK economy and yet it has been a politically charged part of the debate.
The panellists also all saw opportunities for post-Brexit Britain. For Juliet Samuel, our service based economy means we can approach trade deals in a different way to other countries, which could give a competitive advantage. Carolyn Fairbairn returned to the government’s industrial strategy, focusing on the opportunity presented to revisit an agri-food strategy that really works for the UK. She was also clear that Brexit should be a ‘shot in the arm’ for businesses to become more productive. According to Jill Rutter, Brexit is also an opportunity for government and business to take real responsibility for our future. No longer - she said - will we be able to blame Brussels for our problems.
With one year to go it was clear that while much progress has been made, government and business need to plot a path together that will achieve the ambition of Global Britain outside the EU.
If you missed the event and would like to hear Sir John’s views at One Year to Go please tune in to our latest podcast available now on www.pwc.co.uk/tradematters