You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Money Top Stories

Business hails Brexit white paper as a 'massive step forward'

The Guardian logo The Guardian 13/07/2018 Lisa O'Carroll Brexit correspondent
Lorry going past UK Border Force kiosk: UK businesses that employ EU nationals are concerned about the lack of clarity about post-Brexit immigration policies. © Getty Images UK businesses that employ EU nationals are concerned about the lack of clarity about post-Brexit immigration policies. Business leaders have said that the government’s Brexit white paper is a “massive step forward” for the UK and have called on the EU to be pragmatic in its response. 

However, the financial services industry attacked the government, describing the white paper as a “real blow” for the sector. While the document was hailed for its clarity on the UK’s negotiating position, many said there were still gaps in the proposals for businesses.

“It is a make-or-break summer,” said the Confederation of British Industry’s director general, Carolyn Fairbairn. “This is a race against time and we need to see pragmatism and flexibility from the EU. This is a massive step forward and a chance for the EU to really engage with it, but in parallel more work needs to be done here; we need to use the summer to get round the table with the EU.

“The EU must now engage constructively and flexibly, as must politicians from all UK parties. This is a matter of national interest. There’s not a day to lose.”

The City of London expressed deep disappointment, saying the government’s proposal for a new financial services arrangement will effectively make it more difficult to do business post-Brexit. It does not offer an alternative proposal to the current EU-wide passport for banking and it was “regrettable and frustrating” that the City’s suggestion for “mutual recognition” of services “has been dropped before even making it to the negotiating table”, said TheCityUK’s chief executive, Miles Celic.

Related: Dominic Raab introduces Brexit white paper (Provided by: ITN News)

Catherine McGuinness, the chair of the City of London’s policy and resources committee, said: “Today’s Brexit white paper is a real blow for the UK’s financial and related professional services sector.”

Fairbairn, who has been leading the campaign for a better deal for the CBI’s 190,000 member businesses for the past two years, said the government had made “real progress” in relation to frictionless trade.

However, she said more detail was needed on VAT, a concern echoed by the Institute of Directors’ director general, Stephen Martin. He said the government had “missed a trick by holding back on detail in several areas” and criticised the paper for not detailing the dispute resolution system that would operate for business when outside the European court of justice’s purview.

Broadcasters have also expressed concern that UK-based international business in their industry worth £1bn a year is threatened by Brexit and there are no solutions offered by the white paper. Like financial services, TV broadcast to the EU from London requires a licence in an EU country to continue after Brexit.

Adam Minns, the executive director of the Commercial Broadcasters Association, said: “We remain deeply concerned that broadcasters will have to reluctantly start restructuring within the next few months, and possibly within weeks for some companies.”

Elsewhere there was disappointment that the white paper did not offer any insight into the government’s position on post-Brexit immigration policies.

The London skyline from Parliament Hill © Getty The London skyline from Parliament Hill The British Retail Consortium’s chief executive, Helen Dickinson, said that there were 170,000 EU nationals employed in her sector in the Midlands alone.

There was also concern that services had fallen off the negotiating table in a goods-only proposal.

Nick Owen, the chair of Deloitte North West Europe and also of the Professional and Business Services Council, said it was “simplistic” to separate goods and services, and pointed out that many goods were sold to the EU and came with service and maintenance contracts that needed to be part of the Brexit deal.

He said he was also concerned for professionals in regulated sectors including law, accountancy, consultancy, architecture and advertising. They relied on the free flow of talent, whether on inter-company transfers into the UK or into the EU.

“There is an attempt to cover many of the things we have asked for, but the test will be in the EU reaction in the weeks to come,” he said.

The advertising industry was also concerned that Britain’s position as a £120bn-a-year global hub for the sector would be threatened unless it could hire talent at will from all over the world.

“There are some positive signals in this white paper but also some areas for concern where more detail is urgently required,” said Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association.


More from The Guardian

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon