No single market deal for post-Brexit UK, declares PM

Prime Minister Theresa May today delivered her objectives for the UK exiting the European Union, confirming she wanted to establish certainty and clarity over Brexit. Speaking at Mansion House, London, she said a final deal on Britain’s exit from the EU will be put to a vote of both Houses of Parliament.

She stated the Government intended to work towards taking back control of the law that is currently decided by the European Court of Justice, strengthening the union between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and maintaining the Common Travel Area (EU land border) between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. She talked about a “fairer Britain”, declaring that the Government would gain control over immigration from the EU to the UK. She also said that the Government wanted to “guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are already living in Britain, and the rights of British nationals in other member states” as early as possible.

May also stressed that protection of workers’ rights was of importance and that the current elements of European law that give us our current rights would be incorporated into domestic regulations. One of the main driving points of the PM’s speech was her allegiance to a “truly Global Britain”. She emphasised that while the Government intended to seek out a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union, she clarified, “what I am proposing cannot mean membership of the Single Market.”

May said that the Government will seek, “the greatest possible access with a fully-reciprocal free trade deal”, but made her stance on the matter clear when she said, “no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain”, telling EU leaders that punishing Britain would be “an act of calamitous self-harm.” She said that while setting out a trade agreement with the EU was of importance, a “Global Britain must be free” to establish trade agreements with countries not in the EU as well. Trading with major export markets would help stagnating trade, she said. As an added boost to a future-looking Britain, May stated that we must focus on being one of the best places in the world for science and innovation.

With a nod to cross-border crime control the PM confirmed that there would be continued cooperation with current European partners in important areas such as crime, terrorism and foreign affairs. May indicated a phased and ordered approach of the new operation model for the UK would be sought out: “I want us to have reached an agreement about our future partnership by the time the two-year Article Fifty process has concluded.”

Kevin Green, chief executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), was critical of the plan outlined, stating, “Today’s speech by the Prime Minister will be cold comfort to UK employers. The government’s plan risks putting the jobs market in reverse by leaving the single market and curtailing access to workers from the EU.

“We must not underestimate the vital role that EU workers play across the economy. We need more nurses to care for our ageing population, more people with the skills to build houses, and seasonal workers to ensure that farmers can continue to deliver for British customers. The reality is that we have near-full employment; the idea that there are hundreds of thousands of UK nationals waiting in the wings to take these jobs is a fantasy.

“Instead of recognising this, the Prime Minister propagated the myth that immigration has had a negative impact on pay in the UK. We call on the government to think through the proposed changes to immigration before it damages the jobs market and the future prosperity of the UK, and we are ready to work with government to help find solutions.”

Abigail Stevens, managing director of Think Global Recruitment, has mixed views on the statement. She said, “For UK based recruitment companies there is good and bad here. I do not think the Prime Minister has reduced the uncertainty as to exactly what will happen, as shown by the pound taking a further drop straight after this statement was released.  Looking at the positive side, now all skilled candidates from outside the UK will be considered equally, without a bias towards Europeans and therefore maximise the potential pool of candidates to choose from if looking further afield. A specialist recruitment business that works with an export model will actually do better with the currently depreciated pound commanding higher fees. It is those companies working with workers that are not on the skill shortage list that will suffer from not being able to tap into the EU market for unskilled workers. We will have to wait and see what further effects this could have on the British economy and recruitment industry.”

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, views May’s pledge to protect current employment legislation as a positive indicator: “It’s important that businesses have clarity about what the Government is seeking to achieve in the negotiations, so we welcome the details of the Prime Minister’s speech.

“The Prime Minister has made it clear that she wants the UK to be able to control its borders. However, it should still be possible to design a flexible, managed immigration system that allows businesses to access the skilled and unskilled labour they need from both EU and non-EU countries. If we are to use Brexit to deliver a global Britain as the Prime Minister wishes, then British business must be able to continue to attract and access global talent. We would urge the Government to engage properly with organisations and employer bodies to ensure that their views and needs are reflected in any deal that the Prime Minister seeks to negotiate.

“It is particularly welcome that the Prime Minister confirmed that the protections afforded to workers through current employment legislation will continue. Many EU-derived regulations provide vital workplace protections and workers up and down the country will be reassured by the news that their rights will not be sacrificed as part of any deal. However, it is disappointing that the Prime Minister is currently unable to confirm that EU nationals already residing in the UK will be allowed to stay. This needs to be an immediate priority in the negotiations to come.

“Given the implications for migration, it’s more important than ever that businesses look ahead and plan their people strategies, and understand the skills and talents they need in order to ensure that that they are prepared for the future, regardless of what the final arrangements look like.”

Source: Rebecca Jeffrey, Recruitment International

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