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THE BUSINESS OF INTERNATIONAL TRADE

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Organisations React as Government Tells Businesses ‘Time is Running Out’

The UK government is warning that a deal with the EU when the transition agreement ends is unlikely, and is urging businesses to prepare for new regulations by January 1st

Published on October 20, 2020

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Last week, the UK Prime Minister's proposed deadline for a UK-EU agreement, October 15th, elapsed with no new progress reported on negotiations. The timing prompted both Boris Johnson and Cabinet Minister Michael Gove to imply that talks were at an end, although Mr Gove has since said that the door remains 'ajar' for further discussions.

In light of the news, the government issued a warning that 'Time is Running Out', encouraging UK businesses to begin preparations now for a substantial change in the way the UK trades with the European Union when the current transition agreement ends on December 31st, 2020.

Several organisations advocating on issues affecting UK businesses involved in international trade have since reacted to the developments.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), urged the government to secure an agreement, saying that "Clarity on an ambitious deal will turbo charge business preparations and increase confidence in the U.K. as a place to invest. Crucially, it will also help ease the sustainable implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol."

The CBI also published a joint statement signed by a number of leading business figures in the UK calling for "historic political leadership". The statement says that "With compromise and tenacity, a deal can be done. Businesses call on leaders on both sides to find a route through."

The statement goes on to say that "The clarity that comes with an ambitious deal will have an instant impact on firms’ efforts to prepare. It will help investment by removing the threat of tariffs and quotas. And it will catalyse confidence through enhanced customs cooperation while making a precious data agreement possible, vital for services industries which make up 80% of the UK economy."

The statement ends by saying "With each day that passes, business resilience is chipped away. A swift deal is the single most effective way to support recovery in communities across Europe ... After four years of debate, there must be a resolution. 2021 can then be a year to rebuild, rather than regret."

Responding to the government's "Time is Running Out" campaign, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) issued a statement saying that companies are "Facing the triple threat of a resurgent Coronavirus, tightening restrictions and a disorderly end to the transition period", adding that "it is little wonder businesses are struggling to prepare. Many firms will be tired of posturing, cliff edges and deadlines, while others are still grappling with fundamental challenges as a result of the pandemic."

The BCC go on to say that "A UK-EU deal is still both possible and critically important. No matter what happens, businesses will have to change. But we need a deal that supports businesses and jobs, and final clarity over what changes they must make."

Highlighting the narrow timeframe remaining until January 1st, Logistics UK (formerly the Freight Transport Association), called on Mr Gove to "accelerate" work to prepare businesses for the changes in regulations. Elizabeth de Jong, Director of Policy at Logistics UK, issued a statement saying that "Logistics UK has been urging its members for some time to ensure that they and their customers prepare as much as possible for the new trading conditions the industry will face at the end of the Brexit transition period. A brand-new supply chain in border readiness documents will need to work effectively from day one if disruption is to be avoided."

Ms de Jong went on to say that "Logistics UK has been working with government on a series of joint metrics to assess preparedness, as businesses need government to be ready, if they are to be ready. Time is of the essence, so Logistics UK has written to Michael Gove to urge the work be accelerated, so that business and industry can be confident trade will remain as frictionless as possible from 1 January 2021."

To see the full statements from each organisation, click the links below:

Statement from CBI
Statement from BCC
Statement from Logistics UK

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