ICAS response to 12 Brexit priorities

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24 January 2017

ICAS, the professional body of chartered accountants, has issued the following response to the 12 priorities that the UK government will use to negotiate Brexit.

Anton Colella, Chief Executive of ICAS, commented: “A 12-point plan from the PM helps to start fill in the gaps, but there is still an ocean of answers required by British business. 

"The calculation we are all trying to make is – will my business be better or worse off after Brexit? The answer to that will still be elusive in most British boardrooms.”

On priority 1: Certainty

"This is crucial. Business and the markets do not like uncertainty, although they have coped reasonably well with it in the past year.

"We now have greater certainty as to the Government’s Brexit strategy; this increased transparency is positive.

"Sterling reacted well to what was seen as a clearer roadmap, and the government’s intention 'to provide business, the public sector, and everybody with as much certainty as possible as we move through the process' is to be welcomed."

David Wood, Executive Director, Policy Leadership

On priority 2: Control of our own laws

"Although it may appear contrary to the overall ultimate objective of Brexit, adopting the body of existing EU law into UK law makes perfect sense to ensure a smooth legal transition on exit. It should also help facilitate any future trade deals with the EU.

"The decision that the House of Parliament will vote on the final deal agreed with the EU before it is sanctioned, provides certainty in respecting the democratic process. It does, however, open up the possibility that the deal could be rejected. Where would this leave the UK, or indeed the EU?"

James Barbour, Director, Policy Leadership

On priority 3: Strengthen the union

"The need to ensure that the devolved administrations can contribute to the process of planning for the UK’s departure from the EU is noted, but given the distance between the proposals outlined by Scottish Government and those by the UK Government, there are undoubtedly many obstacles to consensus on a number of major issues.

"Whilst gaining greater control over UK affairs will be welcomed by many, it does pose a number of questions: will repatriation of certain legal powers to the UK lead to greater powers for the devolved administrations?"

David Wood, Executive Director, Policy Leadership

On priority 4: Maintain the Common Travel Area with Ireland

"A major challenge will be to deliver a practical solution that allows the maintenance of the Common Travel Area with the Republic, while protecting the integrity of the UK’s immigration system.

"Some comfort is offered by the EU’s approach to the reunification of Germany which proved that political will can, on occasion, overcome any legal impediments."

James Barbour, Director, Policy Leadership

On priority 5: Control of immigration

"Businesses will be encouraged by the recognition that we do need migrants, especially those with specific skills.  We do not know, however, what type of system will be introduced to ensure that there is control over immigration; this was not clear from the Prime Minister’s speech."

David Wood, Executive Director, Policy Leadership

On priority 6: Rights for EU nationals in Britain, and British nationals in the EU

"We particularly welcome that the UK Government intends to seek certainty, as soon as practicable, on the rights for EU nationals in Britain, and British nationals in the EU.

"A number of ICAS members are impacted by the continuing uncertainty over such matters.

"The Prime Minister highlighted that the UK would be willing to agree to a deal on this issue immediately." 

Anton Colella, Chief Executive of ICAS

On priority 7: Protect workers' rights

"For many people, one of the main benefits of the UK being a member of the EU was the increased employee rights and protections which Brussels introduced. Therefore, it is welcomed that the Prime Minister intends not just to translate those existing rights under EU law into UK law, but also to build on them."

David Wood, Executive Director, Policy Leadership

On priorities 8 and 9: Free trade with European markets and New trade agreements with other countries

"After leaving the EU, the UK will be able to negotiate its own trade agreements both with the EU but also all other countries around the globe. Ideally, as the Prime Minister states, the freest possible deals in goods and services will be negotiated.  However, it remains to be seen what will be the terms of any such agreements.

"The Prime Minister also indicated that the UK might continue to make certain payments to the EU on a much smaller scale in relation to specific European programmes. She highlights this as a matter for the UK to decide, though clearly the EU would need to agree to any such participation."

James Barbour, Director, Policy Leadership

On priority 10: The best place for science and innovation

"This is a crucial objective. Collaboration with our European partners and indeed other partners, on major science, research, and technology initiatives is essential to build the Government’s vision of the UK.

"This, however, could prove to be challenging as the EU Member States look to their own futures in the EU, post Brexit; some may see this as an opportunity to weaken the UK’s strong position in science and innovation."

James Barbour, Director, Policy Leadership

On priority 11: Co-operation in the fight against crime and terrorism

"Given the high standing of UK security forces and the common threats of crime and terrorism faced by all EU Member States it is hoped that the UK will continue to co-operate with its European partners in such matters.

"It is, however, likely to be more difficult than in the past and efforts to co-ordinate policy on foreign affairs are certainly more likely to be fraught with difficulties."

Anton Colella, Chief Executive of ICAS

On priority 12: A smooth, orderly Brexit

"Businesses should be comforted by a proposed phased-in implementation, which might vary for different issues and sectors.

"The Prime Minister made clear that this will not be an unlimited transitional status (reflecting “some kind of permanent political purgatory”), which she rightly pointed out would not be in the interest of the UK or the EU.

"It is certainly in no one’s interests for there to be a cliff-edge for business or a threat to stability, as we change from our existing relationship to a new partnership with the EU."  

David Wood, Executive Director, Policy Leadership


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