ONE of the UK’s most respected commentators on European Union affairs has warned businesses that they must not “take their foot off the gas pedal” with planning for a no deal Brexit.
Allie Renison, the Institute of Directors’ (IoD) Head of Europe and Trade Policy, said that companies should not disengage with planning for no deal despite the fact that many people are displaying signs of “Brexit fatigue”.
Speaking before yesterday’s announcement that the EU27 had accepted the UK’s request for a Brexit “flextension” until January 31, Ms Renison said: “It’s very difficult to completely take no deal off the table.”
She said businesses would not want to face a “frantic rush” to get themselves ready for no deal if it became a real prospect again.
Ms Renison also predicted that debate surrounding Britain’s relationship with the European Union was likely to dominate elections in the UK for the foreseeable future.
She said: “Certainly the argument about what you do with the EU will dominate for some time. There is no way of knowing whether the parties who want to have a referendum or revoke would be content with just leaving. There will be arguments to come over what our relationship with the EU will be after Brexit.
“This will very likely become an election issue every time for the foreseeable future.”
Ms Renison said: “People will feel unhappy with the arrangements and want to change them all over again. So it’s not that great for predictability, certainly.
“You just have to look, for example, at Iceland where they were on the road to negotiating their accession to the EU and a new Government came in and decided to kibosh that entirely.
“You can see once you are outside of the EU it becomes much easier to try and continually tinker with what you want those relationships to be.”
Ms Renison made the comments during a visit to Rudding Park, near Harrogate, for a breakfast round table with local businesses to discuss Brexit.
Ms Renison added: “Brexit is not the sum total of trade by any means.
“Nigel Dodds from the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) had an interesting analogy, very specific to his set of issues, but it is quite relevant. He said during the debate on Saturday that, ‘Weariness was not an excuse for weakness on the union”.’
Mr Dodds was effectively saying that weariness cannot be used as an excuse to say that we don’t want to scrutinise the withdrawal agreement properly, Ms Renison said.
Many businesses also wanted to know whether the UK and EU would diverge or align after Brexit. These issues are important to sectors such as life sciences.
Ms Renison added: “Your future immigration system, to some extent, rests on whether you want to have free movement or not.
“And if you don’t have free movement what is the future replacement vehicle for moving people around Europe fairly easily if it’s not free movement? Not everything depends on Brexit certainly. But it means that a lot questions can’t be fully answered until you have an idea of the direction of travel in which you are heading with the EU going forward.”