Blog: Making the most of transition
On the eve of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, the Referendum result in June 2016 - which delivered a majority of something over one million votes in favour of leaving - seems to be a distant memory. What followed has been three and a half years of political upheaval: we have had three Prime Ministers, two Withdrawal Agreements, and four departure or no-deal deadlines and three extensions.
We should welcome the clarity and certainty that our departure this week now brings. Even if the UK is facing an uncertain future.
The obvious and pressing question is how much will our departure change shipping? And the simple answer is it won’t; at least not immediately. Due to the transition or implementation period introduced in the first agreement and carried over into the second, little will change. The UK will retain all the current customs and border arrangements and remain in the single market. European Union law will be followed and countries outside the EU will hopefully continue to treat UK as an EU member. We lose our MEP’s and with it our voice in EU institutions and for this short period until 31 December 2020 we become a rule taker not maker. The prize, or price, is the freedom to make our own new UK trade deals.
We have always argued against a No Deal Brexit and for a proper transition period but otherwise UK Chamber has been deliberately neutral in the political debate. We have worked constructively with the Government and relayed the thoughts and concerns of our members. We have done our job.
In 2016 we adopted three guiding principles; preserve existing ease of doing business; ensure business has access to the world’s brightest talent and reform domestic maritime policy to put the UK on the best possible footing after Brexit. They remain as valid as before and will steer us through the next phase of the UK’s departure.
We continue to view the upcoming transition phase as an opportunity to drive regulatory reform in the maritime sector, and to promote the importance of, and access to, the brightest and best maritime talent. The UK Shipping sector has grown by over 40% since 2010. Imagine what could be achieved with the whole of government all pulling in the same direction? On behalf of member companies we will continue to champion the economic benefits of maritime trade as we create new deals whether it with new global partners, or reformulating deals with our existing EU neighbours.
The UK Chamber is uniquely positioned to drive forward with Government a strong and independent maritime chapter in new trade agreements with the US, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Closer to home acknowledging the UK is leaving the EU Customs Union we must carry over as much of the value and efficiencies, with which we currently trade with EU countries, into new arrangements with our former EU partners.
Foremost amongst the challenges in the year ahead will be defining the nature of the new UK/EU Free Trade Agreement. And accepting the changes the new relationship will require.
Time is short but in shipping we are used to plotting a complex route through a hybrid mix of regulations at international and regional levels. Change invigorates business and it must be with confidence and a bold vision that we should meet the challenges in the year ahead.