Chief Executive of EEF
Successful negotiation of the right deal for Britain will require closer cooperation than ever before between Government and industry.
For manufacturers, trade will be one of the most important measures of success. More specifically, the conclusion of an ambitious and comprehensive EU trade deal, unimpeded by tariffs, which also ensures that UK manufacturers have access to the developing single market in services – an important growth area for our sector.
The UK also benefits from Free Trade Agreements between the EU and more than 50 partners – it is vital that these agreements are rolled over with the conditions of trade maintained, without the UK having to renegotiate them.
While trade is a priority, manufacturers also recognise that UK law is intrinsically interwoven with EU law and unpicking this will be complex. There is an inherent risk of throwing the baby out with the bath water, as well as the potential for added business costs, uncertainty and for companies to be discouraged from trading or expanding abroad.
To avoid such risks, manufacturers will want to see a clear roadmap for how the process of disentanglement would be managed and consultation on the development of a comprehensive legislative review. As a key stakeholder, business must be allowed to play its part in helping to assess realistically what legislation could and should be retained.
When it comes to immigration the Government will have to perform a difficult balancing act. As part of this there must be recognition that skilled overseas workers make an important contribution to our economy and are part of the solution to our sector’s unresolved skills gap. Manufacturers must be able to continue to access these skills (as well as send employees to other sites in Europe).
If it comes to it, then this has to be the tenet of any new immigration policy and we would also urge the Government to seek and consult with industry on creative solutions, such as a highly-skilled STEM fast-track system.
It is clear now that, whether public or private sector, a minister or a CEO, we all have one critical purpose in common. Frank engagement and strong collaboration between industry and Government will be key to making sure that Brexit is as successful as it can be.