UK to go ‘full tilt’ to secure EU trade deal, says Boris

Business leaders have demanded that UK companies be allowed to continue recruiting skilled and, when necessary, low-skilled workers from the European Union after the UK has left the bloc.

An annual meeting of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) in London has heard that the organisation wants the government to delay ending the UK's relationship with the EU if a comprehensive trade deal could not be struck in the two years allowed for Brexit negotiations.

Bumps in the road

Addressing the conference, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said he was convinced that a “fantastic” trade deal could be struck with the rest of Europe, although he conceded there could be “bumps in the road”.The BCC argued that the ideal scenario for businesses was for talks on Brexit and a new trade deal with the EU to be concluded simultaneously.Adam Marshall, director-general of the BCC, said, “Business communities across the UK want practical considerations, not ideology or politics, at the heart of the government’s approach to Brexit negotiations.“What’s debated in Westminster often isn’t what matters for most businesses. Most firms care little about the exact process for triggering Article 50, but they care a lot about an unexpected VAT hit to their cash flow, sudden changes to regulation, the inability to recruit the right people for the job or if their products are stopped by customs authorities at the border.”Mr Marshall said the “everyday nitty-gritty of doing business across borders” should be at the heart of Brexit talks. “What’s also clear is that the eventual Brexit deal is far from the only thing on the minds of the UK’s business communities,” he said.

No sudden disruption

A report from the BCC said a priority must rest in ensuring there was no “sudden disruption” to UK trade with the EU. It also called for a post-Brexit immigration system with “minimal bureaucracy, costs or barriers” and one that exempted EU workers the Tier 2 visa system, which currently applies to skilled workers recruited from outside Europe.The report warned that the existing Tier 2 system would be “incapable of handling the volume” of applications if EU workers were included in it, and said such workers should only be covered by a “simple and light-touch” system after Brexit, to allow businesses to hire staff at any skill level.

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For his part, Mr Johnson told the meeting that there was no reason why talks on a new trade deal with the EU should not proceed at “full tilt” alongside negotiations over the UK severing links with the other 27 members of the bloc. He claimed Britain's compliance with EU red tape meant it was in a different position to other prospective trade partners.“We have an unrivalled opportunity, it is unlike any other free-trade deal the EU has ever done, in the sense that we are already exactly flush with our friends and partners on standards and tariffs and everything else,” Mr Johnson said, adding there was no reason why the UK should not be able to strike “a fantastic deal that is as frictionless as possible for British business”.Saying he wanted to go all out to secure a trade deal within the two years allocated for Brexit discussions, Mr Johnson added, “I'm not saying there won't be some bumps in the road. I'm not saying that from time to time some plaster won't come off the ceiling. But there's a lot of goodwill, and that goodwill is building rather than diminishing.”For related news and features, visit our Brexit section.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory  Get access to our free Global Mobility Toolkit Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centre

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