European firms are uniting to prevent a disruptive hard Brexit

Colin Stanbridge
Holiday Makers Enjoy The Seaside Town Of Eastbourne
We need a transitional arrangement, to prevent a hard cliff-edge in two years' time (Source: Getty)

We have heard much from UK politicians and EU bureaucrats as they position ahead of many months of negotiations over Brexit.

Of course, we wish them every success. But let’s be clear. When they have finished their talks, firms across Europe will be at the forefront of making whatever new arrangements emerge work.

Until now, business has often been referred to, but perhaps not listened to. However, for any deal on a “post-Brexit Europe” to succeed, the “will of business” must be reflected.

That’s why today, here in London, the Alliance of European Metropolitan Chambers (AEMC) is meeting to discuss mutual concerns and share points of interest. The AEMC is comprised of chambers of commerce from the major cities of Europe that collectively represent hundreds of thousands of firms and employ millions across the continent.

Read more: Britain should prepare for the Article 50 talks to fail

Over recent decades Europe has prospered due to the collective efforts of metropolitan chamber member firms, large and small, working in all sectors and industries across cities, regions and states.

Our shared European economy has been underpinned by an evolving economic framework with collaboration on trade and commerce as its ideal, and cooperation on competition and growth as its objective. Business has overcome borders to flourish.

We recognise that while the UK may be exiting the EU, Britain is not leaving Europe. But the process of Brexit will inevitably present challenges to the good functioning of pan-European business. A hard Brexit could pose significant risks to job and wealth creation in the UK, the EU and wider Europe.

As the UK government and the EU institutions start their negotiations, we call on them to actively consider a realistic transitional period for Brexit. Such a period would create sufficient space for European firms and governments to adjust to a new situation.

Read more: Let’s fall in love with Europe again – now that Britain is leaving the EU

Several key aspects need to be addressed in a transitional period:

  • Securing flexible migration of labour across Europe;
  • Minimising barriers to trade and export activity between the regions of Europe;
  • Preserving open aviation and maritime arrangements, and safeguarding land transportation links;
  • Maintaining competitiveness in R&D, science and technology, and promoting the circulation of intellectual capital.

Now is the time for businesses across Europe to say what we expect, want and need from the Brexit talks. If we do not make our priorities clear, we could spend years clearing up the mess long after the politicians and bureaucrats have retired and written their memoirs.

Today’s gathering at City Hall is about starting the process. The AEMC undertakes to work together to make a positive contribution in the testing years ahead.

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