Last month, the government published a position paper called ‘Continuity in the availability of goods for the EU and the UK’, the most recent attempt at communicating how the UK wants to handle the practicalities of Brexit and what is at stake with regard to UK business once the country leaves the EU.
The paper describes the desire for “a smooth and orderly withdrawal from the European Union (EU) in regard to the availability of goods, in a way that supports the move to the freest possible future economic relationship”, something which both the UK and the EU want, thanks to the £50 billion worth of consumer goods exported to the EU from the UK and the further £100 billion being imported in the other direction.
Four key propositions from the UK side are outlined within the paper to allow goods and services to continue to be traded in as free and frictionless a manner as possible following Brexit:
- Ensure goods placed on the market before exit day will not have any additional requirements or restrictions, so that they can continue to be sold in the UK and the EU.
- Any unnecessary repetition of compliance activities carried out by businesses before exit day should be avoided, e.g. if a type approval for a car is undertaken prior to the UK’s exit, it should still be valid after exit day.
- Patient safety and consumer protection should be the top priority in both the UK and EU countries. As a result, there will need to be an agreement to ensure the oversight of products continues so that the right procedures can be carried out for unsafe or non-compliant goods.
- In cases where goods are supplied alongside services, the provision of these services should not be restricted as they are crucial for the production, sale, distribution, delivery, operation and repair of these goods.
Whilst business has generally responded positively to the paper, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) emphasised the need for “clear and early communication” to give small businesses enough time to adapt to any changes, thereby avoiding any negative impact upon confidence and levels of trade. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) meanwhile has emphasised the need for interim arrangements between the UK and EU to be agreed as a matter of urgency, in order to adequately reassure companies and minimise any investment losses.