The Transition Agreement: A little breathing space for business, if nothing else
Though widely anticipated, the recent announcement of a Brexit ‘transition period’ will neither delight leavers looking for a swift resolution nor remainers hoping for a last-minute reprieve.
It’s essentially a fudge. A stop-gap designed to minimise short-term disruption and grant a little breathing space as the two sides thrash out the finer details of their long-term relationship.
But what it will do is allow business and trade to continue flowing between Britain and its neighbours – and that can only be a good thing. Moreover, the clarity on workers’ rights grants employers a modicum of respite as they map out their long-term hiring strategy.
After months of bluffing, everyone finally has their cards on the table. The combative language of 2017 has given way to a more re-conciliatory tone and, hopefully, a mutual desire to progress negotiations towards a satisfactory outcome that we can all live with.
Make no mistake: as exporters and business owners on this side of the Channel breathe a collective sigh of relief, so do German carmakers in Wolfsburg, and re-exporters in Rotterdam.
Business must come first
The agreement is surely a fillip for a UK economy that has suffered badly in the wake of the 2016 Referendum, and has only deteriorated as it tiptoes towards the cliff edge. Sterling rose sharply against the major currencies on the back of the announcement, and we are likely to see a wider boost to output over the coming weeks.
Now, with a line clearly drawn in the sand, business leaders can begin preparing for a post-Brexit landscape. And with the horizon a little clearer, there’s no excuse for sitting on their hands and postponing hiring plans or new acquisitions.
If Britain is to remain an attractive place for business, more than ever we need small- and mid-tier leaders who are willing to be bold, who are willing to innovate, to grow and create jobs.
Not everyone will be delighted with the announcement, of course. But while a smattering of politicians has spoken out against the agreement, across parties the mood finally seems to have shifted towards pragmatism and getting the job done. And that, too, can only be good for business.
Kevin Uphill, Founder, Avondale