Yesterday, Theresa May signed the official letter to trigger article 50 and begin of two years of negotiations for a ‘good deal’ for the UK in Europe. In a time of massive uncertainty for everyone in the UK, the outcome of negotiations are crucial to small businesses and sole traders across the country. And as they are the lifeblood of the economy, we’ve taken a closer look at some of the key points from the plans for leaving the European Union set out by the Prime Minister.
1. Free trade with European markets
One of the main a priorities of the negotiations will be to get the best free trade terms with the European Union. And while we are giving up membership of the EU single market, the UK will be seeking terms for the freest possible trade in goods and services between ourselves and EU member states.
Whilst this means we are going to have to settle for less favourable terms than we currently enjoy, this should be offset against the fact that we will not be required to contribute huge sums to the EU budget. If you currently export your goods and services to Europe, or import materials for your business, this is a particular area to watch.
2. New trade agreements with other countries:
The new freedom to negotiate trade agreements around the world could help Britain to strengthen our reputation as a global trading nation. However, that freedom to negotiate agreements means that we’ll have to get out of the full Customs Union membership we currently have with the EU, so it’s going to be a bit of a balancing act to keep enough of the membership terms to trade in Europe but maintain our independence in other markets.
It’s quite difficult to know how advantageous these new agreements will be until they are in place and it could take quite a few years for them to come to fruition. The danger is that we may not be able to replace the potential lost business from EU sales quickly enough in other markets and that could affect you if you are an exporter.
3. Science and innovation:
The government has stated that it fully intends to continue to collaborate with European partners on major science, research and technology initiatives. This is a welcome statement because the technology sector is a huge earner for the UK with a high proportion of self employed people involved across the country on diverse projects. Britain has benefitted from strong investment in these sectors and they could become even more important in a post-Brexit Britain.
4. Control of our own laws:
Theresa May say that ‘We will bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain’ but it has also been pointed out that many EU laws will have to be adopted to ensure that there are no ‘holes’ in our justice system as we go it alone after a long period of adopting EU laws. We’ll also have to adhere or align some trade rulings (for example product standards) if we want to trade with the European Union going forward.
5. Protect workers’ rights:
There has been concern that the government may look to ‘water down’ workers rights. But they have stated that as they translate the body of European law into our domestic regulations, they will ensure that workers’ rights are fully protected and maintained. However, that still leaves the whole question around the way sole traders and the self employed will be handled. There has been a general feeling for a while that the government has begun to ‘crack down’ on the self employed in terms of tax and employment status and as we saw at the budget recently, it has the potential to become a political hot potato in the coming years.
The government say they are committed to a smooth, orderly Brexit by reaching an agreement with the EU by the time the two year Article 50 process has concluded. They will then look to phase in the changes over a period of time to allow the economy to adapt. But what do you think? Are you encouraged by the points above or does the whole process fill you with dread? We’d like to hear your opinion