brexit uncertainty? has been the buzzword of summer 2016 and even now, months after the referendum, there are still a huge amount of unknowns.
Britain’s exit from the EU is likely to have a knock-on effect to small business exporters, so it’s natural that many business owners are keeping an eagle-eyed view on any and all Brexit news. Yet despite Brexit dominating the headlines for months, we still have little concrete facts about the process itself.
it’s a huge, complex withdrawal so this is perhaps only to be expected but this week it has appeared that even the Brexit experts have very little grasp of the situation.
For example, Lord John Kerr of Kinlochard, author of Article 50, was a witness at a European Union Select Committee this week, and so as Lord Boswell, chairman of the committee, put it: In a world of uncertainty we have someone who knows what he’s talking about.
Yet it seemed that Kerr was keen to stress how little light he is able to shed on the upcoming Brexit negotiations. Holding his pen up to the committee, he said: This is the pen that wrote Article 50 but don’t expect me to tell you how it will workthere are no precedents.
When asked about the two-year deadline for negotiations, he claimed that the discussion about divorce will be nasty and brutish? but that it should be ample time for most discussions to take place.
However, both Kerr and his fellow witness Derrick Wyatt, emeritus professor of law, Oxford University, Brick Court Chambers, were of the opinion that two years is unlikely to be enough time to renew trade arrangements for the UK and the EU.
Kerr outlined several areas in which it seems common sense for the UK and the EU to work together sharing intelligence, anti-terrorism, emergency aid and energy and environmental matters etc. Yet as it is not clear, either to the UK or mainland Europe, what is meant by the Leave campaign’s rallying cry to take back control? there is currently no way of knowing how closely we are likely to be allied.
OK, how about the secretary of state for exiting the EU?
In the same day David Davis, the man who literally holds a new post specifically formed for this sort of discussion, was rebuffed by a spokesperson for Theresa May after he claimed earlier this week that it would be unlikely that the UK will remain part of the single market.
Davis suggested that the priority will be on securing UK borders, potentially at the expense of the single market. The offending statement given to parliament was: This government is looking at every option but the simple truth is that if a requirement of membership is giving up control of our borders, I think that makes it very improbable.
The spokesperson claimed that this is Davis? own personal view rather than official policy.
Davis did not garner much support elsewhere either, with the Guardian reporting that former shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper dismissed his statement as including no plan, no sense of grip, no detail.
Likewise, Liberal Democrats leader, Tim Farron, was quoted as saying: David Davis told us nothing. He read out a few dates in his diary, but anyone looking for Britain’s post-Brexit strategy would have looked in vain. No trade deals, no allies, no plan.
And so, in conclusion: Article 50 will be triggered at some point in the future, probably not this year. There is a two-year time period to negotiate, but it might end up taking longer. At this point, the UK may or may not have access to the single market.
With such scant information on what Brexit will mean for businesses, it would be unwise to downplay it. Despite reports that the economy is bouncing back after the initial shock of the referendum result, it is important to remember that we are currently still members of the EU and there is no predicting what the impact will be on small businesses once the trade deals are finally hammered out.