As the International Business Festival in Liverpool opened its doors, the Business Secretary, Greg Clark gave the opening address.
He made it clear that the UK’s services industry which accounts for 80% of the UK economy needed to maintain its rights to sell services as well as goods in as seamless a transition as possible, post Brexit.
He said, “So, as we leave the European Union, we must deliberately set out to maintain these rights and introduce as few new barriers to trade in services as possible”
He also highlighted the vital need for seamless movement of workers.
In his speech he said, So far, however, the debate has focused mainly on goods. About how our new customs arrangements with the EU need to keep the borders flowing and avoid costly delays and paperwork.”
“That’s entirely right. But in order to provide services, it is people who must not be held up. Mobility is to services what customs is to goods. According to the Engineering Employers Federation, three quarters of manufacturers are posting workers. Sending their UK employees to undertake activities in other EU member states.”
“Doing everything from attending trade fairs to selling and marketing their products. From undertaking training courses, to installing, servicing and repairing their products.”
“And when I talk to UK companies who offer services, many of them stress the importance of this business mobility. The temporary cross-border service provision which underpins their business-as-usual.”
“From creatives, to engineers, to global aerospace firms, every single day, fly-in, fly-out trips keep the wheels of business turning.”
Mr Clark went on to give an example of the need for people to have seamless movement within industries. He said, “take Airbus in the UK. Their employees made 18,000 trips to France alone in 2017.”
“Because they need to move employees in such numbers at such high frequency they operate their own internal shuttle between their site at Broughton, not far from here in North Wales, and their Bristol and Toulouse sites, in addition to commercial flights. This ferries around 50 employees a day to undertake business critical work. If we were to include all movements both ways, including commercial flights, then it’s around 30,000 trips!”
In finishing his address, The Business Secretary summed up by saying he completely understood when companies say that they rely on efficient mobility as it currently stands, raising concerns that restricting people’s ability to travel at short notice would be as damaging to our economy as frictions and disruption at our borders.
He went on, “The issue of mobility is an important one.”
“The Prime Minister touched upon it in her Mansion House speech, saying that we want to:
Agree an appropriate labour mobility framework that enables UK businesses and self-employed professionals to travel to the EU to provide services to clients in person.”
“So, I hear, loud and clear: five requirements that business has to ensure that our services trade with the EU, and the manufacturing that is inextricably linked to it can continue to flourish:
- the mutual recognition of professional qualifications
- the clear right to continue to be able to send people to provide services across Europe
- simple intra-company transfers of people
- the right to establish operating bases or offices on the same basis as a local firm
the ability to remit the profits of those”
Since Greg Clark’s speech, Airbus’s chief executive announced it was considering cutting thousands of jobs in the UK as it started to “press the button on crisis actions” over Brexit concerns.
The company said it was considering dropping plans to build aircraft wings in British factories because of concerns that EU regulations would no longer apply from March 2019 and uncertainty over customs procedures, instead moving production to North America, China or elsewhere in the EU.