Theresa May has promised business leaders they will not face a “cliff edge” as a result of Britain leaving the European Union. The Prime Minister, who has stubbornly refused to set out the Government’s approach to the Brexit talks, has acknowledged that Britain would be seeking transitional arrangements with Brussels. The Government has been criticised by some commentators for not revealing more about its Brexit negotiating strategy.
In a speech to a Yorkshire business audience, Allie Renison, the IoD’s head of Europe and Trade Policy, offered a partial defence of the Government, which she said was still at the “evidence gathering stage” over Brexit.
But she added: “I won’t give the Government completely carte blanche, it’s probably mistaken to think that you can’t give some comfort to business at all.
“There is a separation between setting out your negotiating strategy and setting out your priorities.”
Afterwards, she told The Yorkshire Post: “I don’t think there’s any reason the Government can’t set out over-arching priorities; a framework without getting into the really nitty gritty of strategy of how they are going to do it.”
Ms Renison, who was speaking at the IoD’s North Yorkshire annual dinner at Rudding Park, near Harrogate, said that she hadn’t been surprised by the vote in favour of Brexit, because, outside of business audiences, she had met few people who wanted to stay in the EU.
She added: “A lot of pundits and observers are really stuck in that black and white campaign mode. I think you really have to move past that.”
She said the Government was still in “consultation mode” over Brexit. The Government is carrying out a wide-ranging consultation before it puts together a strategic framework, Ms Renison said.
She also highlighted some of the issues the Government would need to resolve as part of its negotiations over Brexit.
Some firms preferred a route to market through a harmonised framework, she added.
She added: “Do we want to be part of the European Research and Innovation funding network, that brings together the private sector and business? Apart from the funding aspect, that network and exchange of information is really important for a lot businesses who have clients who are supported by EU funding, and have clients who are part of that strategic network for information exchange.
“There is nothing to keep the Government from saying, ‘We want to stay in these, we’ll figure out the how separately.’ Putting out some of those priorities would be really a confidence booster to business.”
The other speakers included Gordon Black, the former chairman of £300m-turnover business Peter Black Holdings, who is also the author of the book, “From Bags to Blenders: The Journey of an Entrepreneur.
Trade is not like public spending, which the Government can control and corral, Allie Renison told the IoD’s North Yorkshire dinner.
She told the audience of corporate leader that it was up to businesses and institutions like the IOD to try and get that message across.
She added: “If you import, you’re not the devil. Maybe people tend to think that imports are bad and exports are good, and it’s not that simple, particularly in a world of very complicated but also integrated global value and supply chains.”
Ms Renison, who is one of the UK’s most respected voices on Brexit, speaks up for IoD members and provides a link between the business community and Government.