The twelfth meeting of the Informal Brexit Liaison Group, set up by the House of Lords Liaison Committee in November 2016, was held on Wednesday 18 April 2018. The Group held a discussion with Mr Paul Drechsler CBE, President of the Confederation for British Industry (CBI), who was accompanied by Mr Akash Gohil, EU Negotiations Policy Advisor, CBI.
Mr Drechsler outlined the five key overarching priorities which had been identified by CBI members: education and skills; infrastructure; taxation and regulatory issues; product innovation and research and development, and trade and investment. Devolution and Brexit were more recent concerns. Although 80% of CBI member companies had favoured remaining in the EU at the outset, since the referendum the CBI had focused on getting the best out of Brexit. The transition period was essential for success. Its adoption was encouraging for the business community and would help small and medium-sized enterprises in particular to have time to adapt. Education was vital, including both homegrown talent and access to international talent, recognising the importance of the latter on the UK’s universities, which he considered the best in the world.
Mr Drechsler emphasised the importance of remaining in a customs union arrangement. The CBI’s “Smooth Operations” report, published on 11 April, was its analysis of the regulatory needs of 23 industry and service sectors after the transition period. 18 of the sectors studied would prefer convergence or alignment for the majority of regulation. Although Brexit presented opportunities for rule changes in certain sectors which could benefit the British economy and consumers, the report found that the opportunities for divergence were outweighed by the costs of deviating from rules necessary to ensure smooth access to the EU, the UK's largest trading partner.
The Group discussed what customs union, or agreement, meant; the importance of continuing to improve dialogue with the civil service, learning lessons from how countries such as Japan and Germany maintained excellent dialogue; the possible future scrutiny by House of Lords committees of both regulations and regulatory bodies; and the importance of developing relationships with Europe. The CBI had stepped up its work in the latter regard in recent years. Mr Drechsler emphasised that personal relationships, and the role of the diplomatic corps in Europe, were more important than ever. Finally, the Group discussed the vital importance of Ireland in connection with the Brexit negotiations and beyond.
The Chairman of the EU Committee updated the Group on recent and planned Brexit-related scrutiny.
The Group is expected to meet next in July 2018.
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