According to the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC), its members are looking for answers to practical questions — rather than endless debates over institutional and constitutional.
Questions like — "Will my business have to pay mobile roaming charges in the EU after Brexit?" and "What, if any, procedures will my company face trading cross-border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland?" — have been posed by UK companies in an attempt to reach clarity on "business-critical issues."
The appeal by leading business organisation comes amid warnings that "continued uncertainty on firms' day-to-day Profit & Loss questions is causing a significant slowdown in business investment."
The European Council Summit on June 28-29 failed to bridge the gap between Brussels and London, while the EC President Donald Tusk warned the lack of progress in Brexit talks threatens to deliver a "no deal" scenario that would crash the UK out of the EU and see it adopt WTO tariffs in trade.
"Over the past two years, businesses have been patient. We have supported the government's drive to seek the best possible deal for the UK economy. We have given time, expertise and real-world experience to support hard-pressed civil service negotiators. We have convened all across the UK to ensure that every business community's Brexit concerns can be heard by elected representatives and officials. Now, with the time running out ahead of the UK's exit from the EU, business patience is reaching breaking point," Adam Marshall, Director General of the British BCC, said.
Among the 24 questions published by the BCC, 22 are rated as unanswered and only 2 — the status of EU nationals in the UK workforce and on the industrial standards regime — are rated "amber" and described as having received some government assurances.
All others remain red, including:
- On Tax, whether a business will need to pay VAT on goods at point of import, and will services firms need to be registered in every EU Members State where it has clients
- On Tariffs, what Rules of Origin firms will have to comply with to receive preferential tariff rates
- On Customs, whether goods will be subject to new procedures, and delayed at border checkpoints
- On Regulation, whether checks on goods conducted in the UK will be recognised by the EU
- On Mobility, whether businesses will be able to transfer staff between the EU and the UK using the same processes as currently
- On R&D projects, whether UK businesses will be able to participate in EU projects after 2020
BCC warns that time is of the essence — with many firms making contingency plans or considering investment alternatives. The full list of 24 priorities is available here.
"Businesses have every right to speak out when it is abundantly clear that the practical questions affecting the competitiveness of their firms and the livelihoods of millions of people remain unanswered. With less than nine months go to until Brexit day, we are little closer to the answers businesses need than we were the day after the referendum. It's time for politicians to stop the squabbling and the Westminster point-scoring — and start putting the national economic interest first. These are not 'siren voices' or special interests. They are the practical, real-world concerns of businesses of every size and sector, in every part of the UK," BCC's Adam Marshall said.
Britain is expected to pull out of the bloc by the end of March 2019, but London has been seeking a two-year transition period to smooth out the withdrawal, as well as guarantees of a future relationship with the EU.