Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Brexit: more garbage for the pile

A report released today by the Institute of Directors is a prime example of how trade bodies fail their members. As much as the report is littered with errors, it is also uselessly adding to the noise.

In most respects it tells us nothing we did not already know. Business wants continuity of trade and regulatory certainty - and that the "walk away option" is unthinkable. Nothing new there. One would expect, though, that a body representing UK industry would have a lot more to say about which sectors are affected and how.

From recent form we have seen the government is not getting the information it needs, nor is there much point in asking business leaders since their knowledge of EU systems is about as slender as that of ministers. Trade bodies ought to be leading the field in pressing the attack yet we find them producing yet more derivative and generic content - which will simply be added to the pile and very rapidly be forgotten.

We can churn over the respective models until the cows come home and make generic recommendations (with no reference to what is actually happening) until we are blue in the face, but one might expect by this point - with only weeks to go before triggering Article 50, that there might be some sense of urgency in raising the alarm over the government's naivety and overall lack of preparation.

We are only just seeing glimmers of understanding in terms issues, but mainly centred around trade in goods and movements through ports - but even then only on a very superficial level. This is to say nothing of trade in services, intellectual property, maritime surveillance, air traffic, space policy, animal health, chemicals and the many lesser celebrated sectors.

With David Davis believing that existing regulatory convergence is sufficient to form the basis of any future agreement, believing the Great Repeal Bill to be sufficient, if the IOD were at all on top of its game, it would be screaming from the rooftops that this government, through its own ignorance is about to deliver a crippling blow to its members.

As much as regulatory harmonisation is only part of it, there is a massive question hanging over the the involvement in EU policies which are of considerable importance to UK business. We have heard only superficial reassurances from the government and in terms of farming, we have absolutely nothing to go on from Defra.

My worry though is that it is far too late. Industry should have been on top of this many months ago. Only now is the penny dropping that negotiations are no walk in the park. With so few interested in the technical minutia and with a government barely inclined to listen, it seems like wasted breath. Even select committees are not adding value to the process and various consultations have come up short in understanding. If this report is the best they can come up with then their members are wasting their money. The IOD is not pulling its weight.

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