UK business looks to ‘true prize’ of EU trade deal

Author: AFPSat, 2017-12-09 03:00ID: 1512768068653648300LONDON: UK business leaders breathed a sigh of relief Friday as Britain and the EU sealed a first Brexit deal, saying it opened the door to an accord on trade, the “true prize.”“The breakthrough in Brussels shows that where there is a will, there is a way,” Josh Hardie, deputy director general of UK business lobby group the CBI, said in a statement.Companies’ spirits had been lifted ahead of Christmas, he said, but “it’s now time to focus on the true prize of a new relationship and a deal” on trade.The European Commission on Friday announced that it “recommends sufficient progress” had been made by Britain on separation issues including the Irish border, Britain’s divorce bill, and citizens’ rights.Responding, UK finance minister Philip Hammond called the deal a “boost for Britain’s economy,” before echoing the urgency felt by business. “Now let’s conclude a trade deal that supports Britain’s jobs, businesses and prosperity,” he said.Official data Friday revealed flat UK industrial production in October — the worst performance since March — alongside news of sliding construction output and a widening trade deficit.Prime Minister Theresa May has committed to seeking a two-year transition deal for the UK once it exits the EU in March 2019, but the matter has yet to be addressed in negotiations.“We need to get agreement on the transition period,” Edwin Morgan, head of policy at business leader organization the Institute of Directors, told AFP.“If we get that in the next few weeks, by the end of March maybe, then businesses won’t have to do those big moving offices, moving staff,” he added.Slow-moving and often acrimonious talks, coupled with disagreements within May’s Conservative party, mean businesses still have little certainty about the closeness of Britain’s future trading relationship with the EU.The EU announced Friday it will work on a post-Brexit free trade agreement modelled on the bloc’s deal with Canada, saying Britain’s insistence on leaving the single market and customs union left no alternative.In Britain, the head of the TUC union umbrella body, Frances O’Grady, insisted that “the government must drop its self-defeating red lines” on leaving the EU customs union and the single market.The single market ensures free movement of goods, services, capital and people across borders within the 28-nation bloc, while the customs union means any goods from outside the EU will avoid further border tariffs when crossing internal borders.“An off-the-shelf trade deal, or one that is based on enhanced equivalence, simply won’t” be enough, said Catherine McGuinness, head of policy at the City of London Corporation, a local government authority for the capital’s financial district.— AFP
Main category: Business & Economy

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