Members of the retail industry have responded in the wake of Theresa May’ve move this week to trigger Article 50. Here are some of the main points they made.
Future trade relationships
Helena Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC , said it was important for consumers to continue to enjoy the choice and quality of goods that cross-border tariff-free trade, whether that was achieved by reaching a new trading relationship quickly to having a phased deal.
Looking beyond the EU, she said: “It’s encouraging that the Government recognises that the UK has a role to play as a champion of free and open trade. Our priority is to make sure the terms of our trade relationship with the EU are right before seeking new deals with other countries. Securing a positive new customs arrangement which enables mutually beneficial opportunities for trade with the EU and the rest of the world, will be crucial to ensuring British shoppers aren’t hit with the costs of unwanted import tariffs at a time when the pound is already weakened. Therefore, ensuring a phased implentation that will maintain a free and open trading environment until a new trade deal can be put in place is essential.”
Dickinson also says a focus on skills will be important for the future, given that the retail industry currently relies on 120,000 EU nationals who work in roles from the boardroom to distribution centres and customer service.
“Workers from the European Union are part of the reason that British retailers are often able to deliver affordable and high-quality goods,” she said. “UK’s post-Brexit labour and immigration policy, should therefore be framed to enable domestic firms, including retailers themselves, to access the skills they need. Not only would this help our exporters, but it will help retailers keep prices low for British consumers.”
Andrea Dunlop, acquiring and credit card service chief executive at the Paysafe Group, says focusing on shortages of staff is not helpful.
“Skills shortage scaremongering is not helpful given the massive non-EU talent pool that remains available to us, and the fact the government has already stated it will allow migration where such shortages exist.
“Energies instead should focus on passporting, which must be addressed early and decisively as part of the UK Government Brexit negotiations. An open market and unrestricted passporting is critical to preserving the value of Fintech to the UK economy.”
Lawrence Jones, chief executive of hosting company UK Fast, says there’s a need for transparency from the government around its plans for the country’s data regulation following Brexit, and to know if the UK will adopt the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or create its own equivalent legislation.
“The opportunity is arising for the UK to establish itself even further as a leading player in data analytics, data centres and global data processing services,” he said. “We’re in an incredibly strong position as we hold the highest privacy standards. Businesses are built upon confidence – confidence in suppliers, in each other and in the economy. Brexit has already caused a huge amount of uncertainty in the economy, so that last thing we need is confidence to fall in our abilities as tech leaders.
“The government is demonstrating a slightly worrying attitude towards data privacy, with the introduction of the Investigatory Powers Act and their apparent lack of understanding of encryption following the Westminster attacks.
“Strong regulations like GDPR help us to build confidence and to keep data flowing freely, but the opportunity will only be realised if we maintain the same standards and inspire the same level of confidence in potential partners across the globe. We need to ensure the right safeguards are in place once we leave the EU in order to maintain and then strengthen our position.”
Andrea Dunlop of the Paysafe Group is lobbying the Government to make financial and card scheme passporting an early priority of the Brexit negotiations.
She said: “UK Fintech is innovative, nimble and disruptive by its very nature. Now, more than ever, the sector needs to play to these strengths.
“It can’t be denied that Brexit provides opportunities both in terms of global markets opening up and where there are regulatory regimes the UK can fast track into. At Paysafe we’ll obviously be following the Brexit negotiations closely to identify new market prospects and be ready to act as they arise.”