By John R Wright
I recently attended a workshop in London arranged by a ‘Big Four’ accounting practice where the panel comprised of five eminent business, financial and political individuals who all expounded their thoughts on the issues around Brexit and whether progress was being made or not.
I must say I was thoroughly depressed at the negativism that came from the panel who all seemed to see the problems, which are many, but really none of the opportunities and benefits!
Clearly, as a confirmed “Brexiteer” my views are quite different and while the challenges are to be acknowledged, I personally see nothing but opportunity for the UK once we can exit from the clutches of the European Bureaucrats.
In this context, it’s worth noting that David Davies, our minister, who is negotiating for the UK, is dealing with unelected bureaucrats in the form of Barnier and Juncker and others who have an absolute agenda of their own.
There is no doubt that progress is being made and the shape of what the final arrangements will be is starting to appear, the UK has placed some pretty generous financial commitments on the table and it is to be hoped that May’s Florence speech and the recent EU heads of state meeting in Brussels will open the log jam.
I’m not sure that we started out discussions from the right perspective; personally I would like to have said to the EU at the very beginning “what can we in the UK do to assist you to maintain your excellent market share in the UK post Brexit”, given that there is an 11% imbalance in the movement of goods and services in favour of the EU and the German car manufacturers, to pick on one industry alone, export more than 900,000 a year to the UK, surely that approach would have had merit.
Really political machinations aside, I do feel that the economic and commercial realities will gradually come to the fore and that pressures will be placed on certain European leaders to make sure that market share is protected.
On the immigration/employment situation I am perfectly comfortable “grandfathering” the status of foreign EU nationals in this country provided, of course, that it’s reciprocated in the EU for British nationals.
Thereafter, a system of work permits could be implemented, there would be no favourites, this system would apply equally to citizens of the EU and all the other countries of the world.
We certainly could take in many more IT and medical professionals from the sub continent and elsewhere. I cannot see why a work permit system would not be effective.
Also worth considering is the systems that seem to work very well in the Middle East, where we can bring in migrant labour to work on construction projects etc on a time bound basis, certainly the living wage in the UK would be very attractive.
There is certainly a long way to go in these negotiations but given the commercial realities I have a good degree of confidence that an exit that is acceptable to both sides can be achieved.
If that does not happen it’s not the end of the world, Britain can survive very well on its own negotiating trade agreements with individual countries or economic blocs!
*Glasgow-based John R Wright is an academic, veteran banker and a former CEO of Oman International Bank and Gulf Bank, Kuwait.
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