Business leaders, including BMW, BP and Vodafone tell Theresa May that: "time is running out".

London

Trade Body, ‘European Round Table of Industrialists’ (ERT) - represents Europe's 50 largest companies, with combined revenues of 2.25 trillion euros (£2tn) and millions of employees.

Senior officers from ERT firms yesterday met with UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, and Brexit Secretary, David Davis.

In a statement after the Downing Street meeting, they said that a trade deal with the EU must be "frictionless as with a customs union".  Downing Street commented that the meeting had been "open and productive".

ERT includes household names, such as: BMW, Eon, BP, Vodafone, Nestle, Royal Mail and Ferrovial. 

In a statement, ERT said: "The uninterrupted flow of goods is essential to both the EU and UK economies.  This must be frictionless as with a customs union.  We need clarity and certainty, because time is running out. Uncertainty causes less investment."

A Downing Street spokeswoman said that the Prime Minister told the business leaders that work was under way on two customs models, "and underlined the importance of ensuring that our future trading arrangements with the EU are as frictionless as possible”.

She added that the commitments to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, whilst allowing the UK to pursue an independent trade policy had been restated.  "The Prime Minister recognised the necessity of providing certainty for businesses, pointing to the agreement of an implementation period at the European Council in March to provide time to allow businesses to prepare for the new arrangements."

Brexit Partners have previously reported that Parliament has now identified over 500 ‘workstreams’ across UK Government Departments that are devoted to the bringing in the changes needed to implement regulatory and legal frameworks to implement Brexit - see Insight Feb 8, 2018.

Many of these workstreams call for changes to IT systems – and all will call for business to make consequential changes to their internal process and IT systems.  We question the assumption that businesses will, indeed, be allowed sufficient time to respond.  Perhaps this the trigger for the recent discussion on a further extension of the transition phase – with 2023 mentioned in some quarters.  Neither the practicality or political acceptance of this is a given.  

And the EU comments in the last week about the impracticality of the UK position – coupled with the repeated mantra that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” could still yet deliver a ‘hard’ Brexit at 23:00 GMT on 29 March 2019.

Brexit Partners Opinion:

Brexit Partners have been taking part in proactive discussion and survey across business and commerce – detailed results to follow – but the headline is that only a minority of organisations are actively assessing the impacts or preparing scenarios to cope with change when it comes.  With 500 workstreams busy on preparing Government for change –  come it will – it’s just a case of how much notice will there be.

Our Brexit Impact Assessment approach and response options continue to evolve as new scenarios emerge and negotiations unfold.  There is no excuse for not undertaking a Brexit assessment as part of good Corporate Governance and Risk Management – and then play a waiting game ‘by commission’ if that is the appropriate response.