Barrier-free trade essential to Brexit negotiation

Groups representing 200,000 manufacturers across Europe and the UK have called on negotiators to agree a Brexit deal that supports barrier-free trade and reduces the risk of economic shocks.

The call comes as Prime Minister Theresa May prepares to trigger Article 50 today, sparking concern among industry leaders that no Brexit deal or a bad deal could be untenable for both parties.

Brussels-based manufacturing group, CEEMET – which includes the UK’s EEF along with French, German and Italian manufacturing organisations – has called on both sides to ‘affect a stable and orderly exit, preserving as much as possible the often complex and delicate trading relationships that are in place.’

Director general of CEEMET, Uwe Combüchen explained: “If we are to avoid a ‘lose-lose’ outcome for European manufacturing, it is essential that all parties work towards a reasonable deal for industry, while ensuring the integrity of the single market. Simply put, a negotiation which produces no deal would be highly damaging for industry in the EU as well as the UK.

“There must be pragmatism on all sides. It is not in the EU or the UK’s interests to lead industry to cliff-edge decisions, which will ultimately damage investment opportunities and business confidence.”

CEO of EEF, Terry Scuoler commented: “These negotiations are likely to be amongst the toughest and most critical the UK has ever been involved in. It is imperative that the government is focussed on securing a deal that will enable both British and European businesses to flourish, investment and innovation to continue and trade to flow.

“This will be the lifeblood that is key to the UK’s future economic success – we cannot afford to see it disrupted or turned off in mid flow.

“As a priority, we now want to see the government seek early agreement with the EU over the future of EU citizens living and working here in the UK and their British counterparts similarly living and working in Europe. Not only is this the right thing to do, but it will send out a clear and reassuring signal to EU workers and the many British businesses that rely upon their skills to drive innovation and growth in the UK.

“Above all, it’s time for the government to demonstrate its support and understanding of business by striving to deliver a pragmatic and realistic deal. Forget all notion of crashing out of the EU without a deal and leaving business to pick up the pieces – focus instead on an orderly and smooth transition, the continuation of barrier free trade, minimisation of costs and ongoing access to required talent and skills. Nothing less will do.”