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Brexit white paper or white flag?

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Brexit white paper or white flag?

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Thanks to the release of the Brexit white paper, we now have some visibility of the direction of travel for the post Brexit UK-EU relationship for the trade of goods, and less clarity for services.

For trade in goods, but even more so the service industries, access to talent from the EU is a key ingredient for business success. The white paper caters for this by promising future arrangements for European tourists, students and “talented people” who happen to be employed by UK companies.

The writing was on the wall for the end of free movement, not least when Sajid Javis said so during his House of Commons home office affairs committee hearing on Tuesday. The white paper quite clearly states that visa allowances will be a negotiation chip for FTAs with new partners. For countries like India, more freedom for the Indian citizens to work and live in the UK will be an important outcome when negotiating their future FTAs with the UK. On (white) paper, a country like India with more than 1 billion people could easily supply all the workforce which UK companies require. But in reality, the EU arrangements not only provide for the right to work in other EU countries, but also caters for the recognition of professional qualifications and some mutual acceptance of state pension systems by counting in the years of contribution from other EU countries. The arrangements, in combination with EU programs supporting academic research and knowledge sharing, will be difficult to replicate with India and the other Commonwealth countries in the short term.

Yes, the Commonwealth countries shares many important prerequisites for collaboration: language, common historical links and structure of the education system to name just a few. These commonalities will allow the countries to create a strong network of academic and business exchange. But this network will not be fully “up and running” in January 2021, because it will take time to negotiate FTAs and to set up programs.

For the time being, uncertainty prevails for UK based companies regarding many aspects of the post Brexit world. Brexit might be soft, hard, in name only…. It certainly is a challenge for businesses requiring access to a highly skilled workforce.


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