The Scottish Mail on Sunday
Now we CAN have a soft Brexit, say top bosses
Business leaders call for a swift decision on access to single market
LEADING bosses have called on the new Government to steer clear of a hard Brexit and to negotiate a transitional arrangement with the European Union while making an urgent priority of granting full rights to EU citizens in the UK.
Paul Drechsler, president of the Confederation of British Industry, and Stephen Martin, directorgeneral of the Institute of Directors, spoke out after the result of Thursday’s snap General Election was announced.
They said they believed the Election provided a fresh opportunity for the UK to negotiate maximum access to the European single market. This internal market removes barriers to trade and allows the free movement of goods, capital, services and labour across Europe.
Drechsler said he was confident the new Government could reach a deal with the EU over access to the single market.
He said the Government had also been given a chance to change its negotiating approach – including its tone and rhetoric. Prime Minister Theresa May has previously revelled in her role as a ‘bloody difficult woman’. ‘There is a much greater opportunity now to understand the other side’s point of view through conversations before negotiations,’ Drechsler said.
‘I have met my counterparts in Europe and I am very confident that there is a pragmatic way through all of this.
‘A strong, fast-growing EU is good news for the UK and a strong, fast-growing UK is good for Europe.’
Martin urged the Government to set out its aims for the talks at the earliest opportunity. He said: ‘We need clarity from the new Government on what our position is and what we are trying to achieve. There was precious little of that during the Election. But the EU has been very clear on what it wants.
‘The best thing for us is to have as much access to the single market as we can because the EU is our biggest trading partner. That is what we have to aim for now.
‘We need something in place soon. We do not
want to go back to border controls and customs checks.’
Negotiations with the EU begin a week from tomorrow.
Drechsler also called for the new Government to acknowledge that negotiating the UK’s exit from the European Union within the two-year time frame laid down by Article 50 would be unlikely.
He said: ‘The chances of it getting sorted out in time are slim so an early win for the new Government would be quickly reaching an agreement on transitional arrangements so we can have a sense of continuity rather than just falling off a cliff edge.’
Both Drechsler and Martin said the new Government should take immediate steps to grant full rights to European Union citizens living in the UK in unison with the EU offering the same concession to workers from Britain.
Drechsler described this as ‘the number one priority’.
He added: ‘My call is to do it urgently. It would be a tremendous confidence booster going into the EU negotiations. The fastest success that the UK and the EU could have would be to secure the rights of migrant workers on both sides.’