Two weeks on from a rather staggering General Election result, the UK has started Brexit negotiations with the EU, not really knowing how Mrs May’s loss of a parliamentary majority will affect things. Still yet to complete a ‘confidence and supply deal’ with the Democratic Ulster Unionist Party, the Government has set out its priorities for the forthcoming Parliament in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech, with Brexit front and centre again.
Of the 27 Bills set out in the Queen’s Speech (which will not be held again until 2019), eight of them were directly linked to Brexit. These included Bills on EU legislation (the Repeal Bill), trade, customs and immigration. Our membership and the wider UK marine industry have a significant interest in being able to trade around the world, while maintaining a strong relationship with our largest market, therefore we will be scrutinising the detail of these Bills once published.
To ensure that the marine industry’s voice is joined up with the wider business community, British Marine maintains membership of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). The CBI’s Director General, Carolyn Fairbairn, has clearly highlighted what the priorities of business are: “Fast action on Industrial Strategy, skills and infrastructure will show that the UK is a great place to do business. But now it’s all about pace”
“Businesses will welcome the ambitions set out in the Trade Bill and embrace the opportunities of a global trade agenda, but will want to see a clear strategy for achieving this.
“The number one priority has to be the relationship with the EU and delivering frictionless trade. Companies will be seeking to understand how the Customs Bill relates to the Brexit negotiations. They will not want to see a Bill that puts up barriers between the UK and our closest trading partners.”
British Marine echoes these comments and is working closely with the Departments for Business, International Trade and HM Treasury to ensure that the needs of our members are reflected in the UK’s negotiating position.
Almost lost in the continuing media fall-out from the General Election, were the start of the Brexit negotiations (on Monday), with David Davis MP , the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, getting the ball rolling with Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator. While the UK had been hoping to run the divorce discussions simultaneously with those relating to our new relationship with the EU, it was confirmed that no progress would be made on the UK’s new trading relationship until significant progress (yet to be defined) is made on our exit. This means agreeing positions on the future of EU nationals in the UK and vice versa, and the size of the UK’s exit payment.
We believe that there are a significant number of skilled EU workers in the UK marine industry, playing a vital part in the success of our industry. British Marine has been clear that we need to maintain their rights to work in the UK, so that the current well publicised skills gap in the industry is not worsened.
A final note on the election result. British Marine normally sees a considerable change in Ministers during the usual post-election re-shuffle. However, this time around stability has been the main focus for Theresa May as she seeks to shore up her minority Government. Most of the leading Ministers for the UK marine and maritime industry have kept their responsibilities, which means we can pick up where we left off, not losing time or ground with introductions. It may not seem that important, but it takes time to build a relationship with a Minister and their staff, helping them understand our members’ priorities.
It is fair to say we are just a little grateful that familiar faces have stayed in place, however with one notable exception. Tracey Crouch MP has kept her sports brief at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, but has lost responsibility for tourism. Tracey had been a leading advocate in Government for marine tourism, joining us at the London Boat Show this year and helping us launch our Watersports Participation Survey results in April. She leaves our sphere of interest with our heartfelt thanks. John Glen MP takes on the role of Tourism Minister, so there is one introduction that needs to be made and it is on our priority list for this summer!
What British Marine is currently leading on?
We are continuing our work with members, other business bodies and the Government to both understand the impact of a number of issues and to develop policies which can form part of the UK’s negotiations. These include:
- The value of free movement of labour – the UK’s marine industry employs a significant number of EU nationals in a variety of skilled, but non-graduate, roles. We are keen to ensure that the industry maintains access to this skilled labour and is not negatively impacted by the Government’s focus on skilled, graduate labour
- VAT and Customs procedures – we are working with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), HM Treasury and members of British Marine Boat Retailers & Brokers to understand the movement of boats through the UK and to consider tax and customs arrangements post-Brexit
- A review of EU legislation – with the Great Repeal Bill set to place around 19,000 pieces of EU regulation into UK law, we are assessing where opportunities exist to amend or drop some of this to benefit the UK marine industry