Monday 17 May 2021 6:03 pm

UK government to set up new unit to exploit 'Brexit opportunities'

The UK government is setting up a new unit to explore “Brexit opportunities” particularly around shedding EU regulations, according to Lord David Frost.

Frost, the minister for UK-EU relations, said he was helping hire a new head of the unit that will come from outside government and that it would explore things like changing financial services regulations.

Lord Jonathan Hill put out a government commissioned review into financial services post-Brexit in March, with the paper suggesting reform to the UK’s shares listing regime and allowing Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (Spac) to go public in London.

These regulatory changes would be a pivot from the EU and would likely ensure that Brussels would not grant the City of London widespread access to European markets – a process called equivalence.

Speaking to Westminster’s European Scrutiny Committee, Frost said: “It’s been mentioned over the weekend that we are looking at financial services regulations and seeing what we can do now we are able to move on from EU arrangements for financial services. We will be doing this on other areas.

“I am on the key committees responsible for this, we are also creating a new unit to work with me on this subject and we’ll be recruiting shortly for a head of this unit from outside government.

“We shouldn’t accept we are in the EU’s regulatory orbit for these purposes, we do need to go our own way of doing things and our own philosophy behind it.”

Frost also spoke about how post-Brexit issues with UK-EU trade have now been “largely overcome”.

Exports from the UK to the EU plummeted in January after the end of the Brexit transition period.

A survey in March from the British Chamber of Commerce showed almost half of UK exporters were having serious difficulties sending goods to the EU now the UK is out of customs union and single market.

Agricultural exporters in particular problems at the EU border, with reports of tonnes of goods being discarded due to British firms not having the proper paperwork.

However, figures from the months after January show that UK-EU export figures have rebounded.

“If you look at the overall trade figures – goods, exports – they are actually above the average in export terms for last year,” Frost said.

“That was a pandemic year, but then the economy is still being affected by the pandemic across Europe so we’re doing better than last year already.

“The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in February that the disruption to food exporters in January appear to have been largely overcome.

“There have been some isolated incidences of EU customs officials or national customs officials complaining about the wrong stamp or the wrong colour pen. I think they are relatively isolated actually and the operational relationship between the agencies concerned is actually pretty good.”