Don't let us suffer because of Brexit trade row, urge Lancashire business leaders

The UK and the EU have been urged not to “let business get caught in the crossfire” as Boris Johnson and Michel Barnier set out competing visions of the future relationship.

Tuesday, 4th February 2020, 11:45 am
Boris Johnson and the EU may have different ideas about the future

The two sides are on collision course for a Brexit trade battle.

Major stumbling blocks are already obvious, just days after the UK left the European Union, with battles over fishing and the application of a “level playing field” on issues including state subsidies, environmental standards and workers’ rights.

North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce Policy Manager Geoff Mason, said today: “Businesses are looking for a successful outcome to the negotiations.

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“With many local companies engaged in exporting to and importing from the EU this matters to business here in Lancashire.

“The UK’s relationship with the EU is expected to change. Businesses will adapt to make the most of their circumstances but need to be kept informed."

He added: “Uncertainty has already affected investment and future planning so must be avoided.The government needs to listen what business needs from negotiations to protect the economy.”

The Confederation of British Industry warned that firms could be caught in the crossfire during the trade talks.

President John Allan said business optimism was returning but warned that talk of a “bare bones” trade deal could “pause” investment.

The Prime Minister insisted there was “no need” to abide by EU rules and said that British fishing grounds are “first and foremost” for UK boats.

But the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said that allowing European trawlers into British waters was “inextricably linked” to securing a trade deal.

And he pointed to the joint Political Declaration, agreed with Mr Johnson, which committed the UK to”robust commitments to ensure a level playing field”.

The Prime Minister used a speech in Greenwich, south-east London, to stress his commitment to free trade - and signal his determination to secure an arrangement with Brussels along the lines of that agreed between the EU and Canada.

”There is no need for a free trade agreement to involve accepting EU rules on competition policies, subsidies, social protection, the environment or anything similar, any more than the EU should be obliged to accept UK rules,” he said.

”The UK will maintain the highest standards in these areas, better in many respects than those of the EU, without the compulsion of a treaty.”

Mr Johnson confirmed that if a Canada-style agreement was not possible, he would be prepared to walk away without a full trade deal, like Australia’s relationship with the EU.

Shortly before Mr Johnson spoke, the EU set out its draft negotiating mandate, calling for “reciprocal access” for fishing vessels, and stating that a free trade area with no tariffs or quotas was contingent on a “level playing field ... ”.