The Brexit Papers – Attention turns to the trade of goods and associated services

No one said Brexit would be easy.

This week’s developments provide a clear example of the difficulties faced when negotiating with 27 EU states and simultaneously attempting to unravel more than 40 years of union.

Whilst all parties wish to reach an amicable and mutually beneficial arrangement, their specific priorities are not necessarily aligned. The European Commission has been unwavering in its priorities, noting "time and time again, we have to have sufficient progress first on the three areas of citizens' rights, financial settlement and Ireland”.

However, this week saw the UK Government attempt to shift the focus of the negotiations, or in the words of Brexit secretary David Davis, “drive the talks forward”. The latest position paper relates exclusively to the continued trade of goods and associated services following the UK's departure from the EU in March 2019.[1] The key proposals are:

  1. To ensure the continued availability of products on the EU and UK markets at the date of withdrawal;
  2. Where businesses have already undertaken compliance activities, they should not be required to duplicate these activities in order to place goods on the EU and UK markets;
  3. Market compliance authorities must be allowed to take necessary action to address any non-compliant products under the relevant legislation; and
  4. Where goods are supplied with services, there should be no restriction to the provision of these services.

It is in all parties’ interests to maintain (and strengthen) trade relations. Last year, the EU exported €127.9billion of consumer goods to the UK and imported €62.3billion of UK consumer goods.[2] Faced with the behemoth of negotiating bespoke trade agreements, these proposals recognise that contingencies must be made to mitigate market disruption.

As the clock ticks down to withdrawal, the remaining EU states will be forced to focus on trade as a central issue. It is therefore of some comfort to see the UK addressing the continuance of goods and services in a pragmatic and uncontentious manner. Fingers crossed, these proposals will mark the starting point of trade negotiations and come March 2019 consumers and businesses will have the certainty they require.

For further information about anything contained in this article, or to discuss the possible implications of Brexit in more detail, please contact Kate Westbrook, David Geller or visit Thrings’ Brexit MOT.


[2] Eurostat External Trade database (Comext) – DS-057555

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