Business sets out aims for UK-EU trade deal

What are businesses asking the UK government to prioritise in its negotiations with the EU over a free trade agreement?

uk movement of goods storage facility
Businesses have set out the priorities they want to see the UK government adopting in negotiations with the European Union (EU) over a free trade agreement.Ministers are expected to set out their position on the upcoming talks with Brussels on Thursday, but in a new report, 'The Red Tape Challenge', the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has explained measures "that will help the British economy thrive outside the EU, supporting jobs and investment across the country".

Companies need to focus on jobs and growth

Based on consultations with hundreds of firms across the country, the report covers trade in services and goods, and customs arrangements. "Frictionless trade is coming to an end. The challenge business and government now shares is to minimise red tape through negotiations so companies can focus on jobs and growth," says the CBI.
The report calls for "ambitious" market access for services to support UK firms’ competitiveness; a reciprocal mobility agreement allowing people to travel on business trips and short-term intra-company transfers; and an adequacy decision on data to allow cross-border data flows to continue.

Priorities for goods

On goods, businesses want to see a mechanism to manage divergence of regulation over time, to allow for British sovereign choices over rules; an assumption of mutual recognition of rules unless and until either side chooses to diverge; and cooperation on testing and compliance to reduce red tape and waste.
The report also calls for mutual recognition of trusted trader schemes on customs, "with specific work needed to make these accessible for SMEs; and the simplification of administration and documentation to keep paperwork to a minimum."
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Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general, says, “A clear democratic decision has been made to leave the EU. Firms are committed to seizing the opportunities and helping minimise any problems that emerge by working closely with government. This is how we will build the most successful future for the UK economy.
“With talks now in touching distance, the CBI has asked employers across the country what practical outcomes they need from the future EU relationship so they can concentrate on what they do best: investing, innovating, creating jobs and supporting a strong economy.

Clear message from employers to keep trade simple

Dame Fairbairn continues, “The message is clear: keep trade easy and minimise red tape. For this reason, British firms back many of the government’s objectives set out in the negotiating mandate, such as on zero tariffs and data.
“In other areas, how the government strikes the balance between access and control is less clear. All efforts must be made in these talks to save exporters time and money, avoiding new paperwork, costs and delays. This will protect the UK’s global competitiveness, jobs and growth. The unique challenges facing Northern Ireland businesses should also be front of mind for negotiators.  
“Firms are future-facing and believe Britain is well-placed to grasp new opportunities ahead, setting regulations for new technologies from artificial intelligence to quantum computing. Our recommendations aim to keep red tape low, while recognising that the ability to set its own rules is central to the government’s ambition and can bring real opportunities for business.”

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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