Why business must take a lead in the Brexit process


The Brexit debate is moving on. The main issue at the moment is the shape and nature of any transitional deal.

Our recent report has put forward what we consider to be a sensible and practicable transition period lasting up to five years. This involves using the existing arrangements that cover the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) making the UK part of the European Economic Area.

Whether we do that by joining the existing structures or through some type of associate membership that duplicates the same arrangements is largely irrelevant and a matter of what is legally most practicable. However, the EEA, in our view, would fit the bill perfectly as a transitional arrangement.

The reality is that the more one can use existing arrangements, the more likely that an agreement can be reached within the Article 50 time frame that expires in March 2019. Anything too complex and too bespoke may well get stuck in limbo and could easily fall down in the process of getting approval from the European Parliament and all 27 remaining member states. Should approval not be forthcoming, Britain will fall out of the EU with no deal.

In the UK, we also believe that such a transitional arrangement could command broad cross-party support. In fact, our proposals are starting to get traction. Stephen Kinnock MP (a Radix trustee) was quoted as saying he was seeking to form a “coalition of common sense” with like-minded Conservative MPs to keep the UK in the EEA for an unspecified “time-bound period” – reflecting the suggestions in our report.

If such an option is to be gain momentum, we believe it is important to put it forward with all its advantages to the broader population and to generate public support. Bringing together a coalition of MPs in support it is vital. But the hand of such a coalition would be substantially strengthened if there were clear signs of broad public support.

And where is the voice of business?

The proposed transitional arrangement would allow time for both business and government departments to adapt to the evolving situation until a final deal is reached. But the voice of business needs to be loud and public. And it has to emphasise the positive impact of such a transitional arrangements on jobs, wages and the national interest not just on their shareholders.

Business bodies just cannot afford to keep working in their usual style – influencing behind closed doors and hoping that it will all come right in the end. That is the approach many business leaders took during the referendum campaign – and it failed.

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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