Industry bodies welcome clarity around Brexit and call for free movement of talent

Despite the hard Brexit path prime minister Theresa May has charted, industry bodies by and large welcome any sort of clarity around the process, and the emphasis on low tariffs.

Yesterday morning, prime minister Theresa May provided 12 key points around which the Brexit deal will be negotiated. 

Chief among these were:

  • No partial membership with the EU;
  • a free trade agreement;
  • protection of worker's rights;
  • a quid-pro-quo agreement with the EU regarding EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU.

Overwhelmingly, industry bodies have welcomed the clarity May's speech provides around the, until now, rather vague and opaque plans for Brexit.

"We now know where we stand, at least in the bigger picture. We can no longer bury our heads in the sand: we are Brexiting, and, as the Government has now confirmed, we will no longer stay in the single market," said IPA director general, Paul Bainsfair. "Regardless of one’s personal views, to have this uncertainty cleared up allows us to better plan for the future."

Ian Wright, director general of the Food and Drink Federation, echoed Bainsfair's relief over a clearer picture. "We welcome the fact that the prime minister has provided some much-needed additional clarity on her government's approach to plans for the UK's EU exit. We are also encouraged that the PM hopes to adopt a phased approach to Brexit which offers businesses time to prepare and plan as opposed to a potentially fatal jump from the cliff edge."

Many, including John Kampfner, chief executive of the Creative Industries Federation, call for continued free movement of talent so crucial to the creative industry. 

"The Federation welcomes the prime minister’s recognition of the urgent need for a reciprocal arrangement with the EU on its nationals working in the UK and those British citizens currently employed in the EU," said Kampfner. "However, the willingness to continue to welcome the "brightest and best" begs the question as to how that will be interpreted in future as the UK updates its outdated immigration system. Such judgments can be difficult to determine not least because, despite many well-paid workers in the creative sector, talent is not always commensurate with salary."

"While the creative sector is already looking to embrace new markets, 42% of current creative service exports go to the EU – the largest proportion of any of the UK’s trading partners in 2014 - and 57% to Europe and these will remain important while the new deals are struck, added Kampfner. "Any future trade agreements for our sector will have to take into account the importance of effective intellectual property rights protection and enforcement if we are to reap the financial benefits."

Wright also emphasised the need for access to workers with a range of skills, including those not widely available in the UK. "We welcome the assurances for current EU workers and look forward to understanding better how her proposals will impact on future access to skilled and semi-skilled workers from the EU," he added.

Speaking on behalf of the BRC, chief executive Helen Dickinson is buoyed by the PM's strong focus on negotiating tariff-free trade with the EU. "It is crucial that Britain gets a new deal that works for ordinary British consumers, which doesn’t hit them with the costs of new import tariffs at a time when the pound is already weakened," she commented. 

Overall, now that the government has clearly outlined its plans for Brexit, the industry must work hard to position advertising's role within the new context, said Ian Barber, communications director of the Advertising Association. "Our value is clear and the negotiations are an opportunity to position advertising’s role as the UK’s industrial strategy evolves."

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