Statement by the EESC Employers’ Group President, Stefano Mallia

EU employers welcome the Brexit deal and warmly congratulate the European Commission negotiating team, masterfully led by Michel Barnier.  As businesses try to make sense of the 1 200-page trade treaty, however, they call for a period of adjustment to help them on their steep learning curve.

European employers welcome the fact that an orderly Brexit has been achieved and that the integrity of the single market has been maintained. However, even if no tariffs are levied or restrictive quotas imposed on goods traded, a whole series of new customs and regulatory checks, including rules of origin and stringent local content requirements, will create red tape, possibly slowing down processes, and supply chains will take a while to adjust to the new reality. 

This is why companies need an adjustment period to comply with the changes. To support all businesses, especially SMEs, through the implementation of the deal, a heavy-duty system, such as a SOLVIT for BREXIT, needs to be set up.

At the same time, there is a clear need to go back to the negotiating table in order to include the services sector in the deal, ensure the smooth flow of data between the EU and the UK and guarantee the mutual recognition of qualifications.

If we want Europe and the UK to remain closely linked, we need to continue working on our relationship. The UK can never be just another third country. The agreement must be a solid platform for future cooperation in a number of areas that have a major impact on our competitive environment, ranging from climate change to digital transformation, research and innovation and standards. But this deal is just the end of the beginning.

Civil society and employers in particular must fight to keep the channels of trade open and to build a sound structure that allows this to happen. (dv/kr)