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BSRIA warns against post-Brexit barriers on EU trade and skilled workers

Industry body has responded to government’s Brexit strategy white paper by adding voice to wider construction supply chain calls for limited customs barriers with the EU

Ensuring a “framework for mobility” that will ensure expertise, goods and components can move between Britain and the EU post-Brexit without significant tariffs or barriers should be prioritised in any withdrawal agreement, industry body BSRIA has said.

The organisation’s calls form part of its response to a government white paper outlining broad ambitions for Brexit negotiations.  This will determine the country’s future relationship with the EU. The strategy was agreed by the Cabinet last month at a retreat in Chequers that recognised a need for regulatory alignment for goods such as technology components.

However, a series of senior resignations within the government in opposition to the strategy and votes passed within parliament before the summer recess have ensured continued uncertainty on the government’s final position with a few months to reach a deal. This could lead to a potential failure for the UK and EU governments to agree on a post-Brexit arrangement.

BSRIA said that realising pledges within the government’s Brexit white paper to ensure ongoing tariff-free, frictionless trade between UK and EU business for manufactured goods would be vital for the construction sector and supply chains.

The organisation stated, “The commitment to supporting business in moving people between states is welcome and new arrangements must avoid placing new administrative and costly burdens on businesses – especially SMEs.”

“These are issues central to the government’s ability to deliver its ambitious housing and infrastructure plans as part of the modern Industrial Strategy, so it is essential that the forthcoming negotiations get them right.”

BSRIA said that the white paper strategy set out by the government also pledged to find a reciprocal deal to ensure staff can easily travel between offices a company may have in both UK and EU territory. It also committed to realise streamlined border agreements.

The organisation stated, “But industry will be frustrated that the white paper fails to make the broader link between migration arrangements and trade. This could be an important element of securing a deep relationship with the Single Market and, therefore, a comprehensive deal on trade.”

Efforts to ensure a customs arrangement that mirrors the benefits of the existing Customs Union was also deemed as being important for manufacturers working across the HVAC industry, according to BSRIA. The government has pledged to leave the union as part of the Brexit process in the paper.

 The Customs Union ensures that products destined for any UK or EU territories undergo just one set of approvals and authorisations before being accepted in any country in the Single Market without checks or levies.

 While ongoing involvement in the existing union would allowed continued tariff free trading with EU member states, it also prevents the UK or other EU nations to individually negotiate trade agreements. This is an important point of contention for those opposed to retaining membership of the customs union after Brexit.

‘No deal’ concerns

Stakeholders from across the building services and construction industry have stepped up efforts to try and steer government Brexit policy as the UK prepares to cease being an EU member state in March 2019.

The EURIS advisory body, which represents thousands of companies and brings together manufacturing and mechanical engineering bodies such as BEAMA and FETA last month called on the government to avoid a ‘no deal’ Brexit arrangement at all costs.

Advisory body chair Dr Howard Porter previously sent an open letter to Prime Minister Theresa May on behalf of its members, warning of significant industry concerns about a failure to reach an agreement with the EU around its future relationship and customs arrangement with the UK.

Dr Porter said in the letter, “We are still very concerned by the possibility of a ‘no deal’ scenario. This outcome would cause enormous disruption to UK industry and risk substantial economic damage to all of our companies.”

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