The leaving of the EU by the UK tonight is the most dramatic effect so far of the last year’s General Election. The PM will argue that he has ‘got Brexit done’ and he is quite right that the process of disengagement is now irreversible and inevitable. However, it is not yet entering into a new solid state, it is only really moving into another fluid phase. The major area for the MTA to engage in the forming of the new future is in the negotiation of the future trading relationship. There are a range of formal and informal means of influencing that process; through umbrella bodies such as the CBI and EURIS as well as more direct engagement.
Many of the things that manufacturing would want (no tariffs, no quotas) will be delivered by a Canada(+?) trade deal but there things that might not – the headline grabber will be the end of frictionless movement, but there will be other problems to grapple with. The Chancellor recently signalled that Regulatory Alignment as an objective was off the table; however, there have also been noises to the effect that the UK will not diverge in any given area if there is no business demand for it, in our sector it is hard to see where that demands might originate from. The MTA will be working to avoid needless duplication and cost. Other concerns include business movements (the ability to send people abroad for service or project engineering) and cross border data transfers.
The Government says that it wants a best in class trade agreement, and with a very healthy working majority, it can deliver that at home; it remains to be seen how it will manage the trade offs needed to deliver it abroad.