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

- By Jon Rees

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.’

 ??  ?? OP­POR­TU­NITY: CBI pres­i­dent Paul Drech­sler
OP­POR­TU­NITY: CBI pres­i­dent Paul Drech­sler

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