With Easter recess over, cross-party negotiations on Brexit have resumed in a further bid to break the deadlock over the Prime Minister’s deal with Brussels, but there’s very little ‘new’ news for business to act upon. Following the latest extension to the Article 50 deadline, the UK is now scheduled to leave the EU by 31 October with or without a deal.
In our last blog, I wrote about business leaders waiting for certainty on the Brexit process – well certainty is still elusive.
On 10 April the EU27 agreed to grant a further extension to the Article 50 deadline - to 31 October. But, the UK can withdraw earlier once the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified by both the UK and EU.
The extension is contingent on the UK taking part in the European Parliamentary elections starting 23 May; otherwise the extension ends on 31 May. The Prime Minister is hoping to avoid the UK having to take part in the elections, so talks continue between the Government and the opposition, in the hope of gaining cross-party support for the Withdrawal Agreement.
This was another momentous week in the Brexit process, with the conclusion of further UK and EU negotiations on the ‘backstop’ followed by three crucial votes in the British Parliament.
This week has not been as defining as it might have been for Brexit, with the watershed moment now expected to come between 12 and 14 March. However, some developments from the last few days could have material implications for how businesses assess their exposure to Brexit risks and decide on the plans they put in place.
Whilst the major Brexit preoccupation is the ongoing relationship between the UK and the EU and what that means for continuing trade, another important consideration is the UK’s ability to trade with other non-EU countries once outside the bloc.
With just six weeks until the scheduled Brexit date of 29th March and no clarity as to where the exit deal may end up, the risk of disruption to supply chains, market access and workforce continues to loom large in the minds of business leaders. As Greg Clark (the UK Business Secretary) pointed out at a recent Parliamentary Select Committee, exporters shipping to Asia are sending consignments now that will arrive after Brexit, so for the next few weeks there is uncertainty as to whether their goods will be subject to increased tariffs, or even accepted at port on arrival because of delays in ‘rolling over’ EU trade agreements.