Karen Briggs, head of Brexit at KPMG in the UK, responds to the Prime Minister’s speech.
Ms Briggs said:
“We expect businesses to see the Prime Minister’s speech as a welcome step forward in understanding the UK’s approach to the coming negotiations. It is in the UK’s economic interest to seek a smooth and orderly Brexit, one that provides maximum freedom to operate in European and global markets.
Reconciling the desire of a Global Britain to sign new trade deals with the need to preserve tariff-free pan-European supply chains remains a key issue for the negotiation. The approach to the Customs Union outlined by the Prime Minister is desirable if it can be achieved. Overall, the objectives set out don’t appear to contravene existing EU red lines.
Of course there is a long road to travel before we reach an agreement. Businesses will welcome a phased approach to implementation, but remain concerned about a short timetable and the continued potential for a cliff edge if a deal isn’t reached within two years.
Businesses in sectors with long planning lead times still need to make provision on the basis of the worst case scenario of falling back onto WTO rules.
Theresa May stressed the importance of immigration to our economy and attracting the “brightest and best” but uncertainty remains until this is defined; particularly for lower skilled employees and the businesses which rely on their labour. Being able to reassure existing workers about their position is a key concern for business, including our own.
As we build on our heritage as an outward facing trading nation, we must also look inward and reskill our workforce with business and government working together to achieve better education outcomes. This will enable more of society to benefit from the opportunities Brexit brings.”