New report sets out priorities for UK-EU negotiations

As the UK and EU prepare to negotiate their new economic relationship, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has set out a series of practical business priorities for the UK-EU free trade agreement. The CBI claims that its recommendations will help the British economy thrive outside the EU, supporting jobs and investment across the country.

Based on conversations with hundreds of firms of all sizes, across every sector, the CBI’s new report – The Red Tape Challenge – covers trade in services, trade in goods and customs arrangements. The CBI says its recommendations respect the parameters for the negotiations set down by the Prime Minister in his Greenwich speech.

The report recognises that frictionless trade is coming to an end. It emphasises that the challenge business and government now share is to minimise red tape through negotiations so that companies can focus on jobs and growth.

On services, the report’s recommendations include:

  • ambitious market access to support UK firms’ competitiveness
  • a reciprocal mobility agreement allowing people to travel on business trips and short-term intra-company transfers
  • an adequacy decision on data to allow cross-border data flows to continue, which is a key part of modern trade.

On goods, the recommendations include:

  • a mechanism to manage divergence of regulation over time, to allow for British sovereign choices over rules
  • an assumption of mutual recognition of rules unless and until either side chooses to diverge
  • cooperation on testing and compliance to reduce red tape and waste, avoiding double testing of goods.

On customs, the recommendations include:

  • mutual recognition of trusted trader schemes with specific work needed to make these accessible for SMEs
  • simplification of administration and documentation to keep paperwork to a minimum.

The CBI’s report focuses on outcomes rather than negotiating strategies, and does not seek to predict a “landing zone” for the forthcoming talks.

“Keep trade easy and minimise red tape”

Commenting on the report, Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said: “A clear democratic decision has been made to leave the EU. Firms are committed to seizing the opportunities and helping minimise any problems that emerge by working closely with government. This is how we will build the most successful future for the UK economy.

“With talks now in touching distance, the CBI has asked employers across the country what practical outcomes they need from the future EU relationship so they can concentrate on what they do best: investing, innovating, creating jobs and supporting a strong economy.

“The message is clear: keep trade easy and minimise red tape. For this reason, British firms back many of the Government’s objectives set out in the negotiating mandate, such as on zero tariffs and data.

“In other areas, how the Government strikes the balance between access and control is less clear. All efforts must be made in these talks to save exporters time and money, avoiding new paperwork, costs and delays. This will protect the UK’s global competitiveness, jobs and growth. The unique challenges facing Northern Ireland businesses should also be front of mind for negotiators.

“Firms are future-facing and believe Britain is well-placed to grasp new opportunities ahead, setting regulations for new technologies from artificial intelligence to quantum computing. Our recommendations aim to keep red tape low, while recognising that the ability to set its own rules is central to the Government’s ambition and can bring real opportunities for business.”

The full list of recommendations

Trade in services: Comprehensive coverage of services trade to maintain the competitive edge of the UK’s world-leading service providers.

  1. A deal that provides for all services sectors
  2. A mobility and social security deal
  3. Ambitious market access for regulated services sectors
  4. Mutual recognition of professional qualifications
  5. Mutual recognition of professional bodies and standards of conduct
  6. A Market Access Agreement for transportation services
  7. A separate UK-EU Air Services Agreement
  8. An adequacy decision on data

Trade in goods: Ambitious cooperation on regulation to reduce red tape for the UK’s exporters.

  1. A mechanism to manage divergence over time
  2. Mutual recognition of assessment processes by trusted regulators
  3. Regulatory cooperation on testing and compliance
  4. A protocol on conformity assessment
  5. Cooperation between UK and EU authorities on market surveillance
  6. Formal UK cooperation agreements with EU agencies where third-country involvement exists
  7. Commitments to European and international voluntary standards

Customs arrangements: Meaningful customs facilitations to keep costs and complexities low while freeing the UK to seek new trade deals.

  1. Zero tariffs on UK-EU goods
  2. A modern approach to Rules of Origin
  3. Simplification of administration and documentation
  4. Full cooperation and communication between customs authorities
  5. Mutual recognition of trusted trader programmes
  6. Minimised customs burden for goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland
  7. Dedicated inter-agency work streams on customs technology

For advice on trading with the EU during the transition period, email me or call me on 020 7099 2621.