Fane International optimistic as key Brexit deadline nears

Published by Scott Challinor on October 10th 2020, 8:03am

Downing Street has said that a meeting between the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and his counterpart Lord Frost on Friday has been “useful” as both convened to continue informal talks toward a post-Brexit trade deal.

Nevertheless, a spokesperson for Number Ten warned that differences remain on certain key issues, with informal talks set to resume next week in Brussels.

The spokesperson said: "We have had useful discussions this week. Progress has been made in some areas, however there still remains differences on some important issues but we remain committed to trying to agree an FTA [free trade agreement].

"We continue to want an agreement, we continue to want an FTA but it is important that we can agree on some issues."

The meeting between the two leading negotiators came after European Council president Charles Michel said that both sides were nearing a “moment of truth” in the negotiations as the talks enter their final week.

Fisheries and state aid remain the major bones of contention standing in the way of an agreement.

The EU is known to want the UK to continue to follow its own rules on state aid, but the UK feels it should not have to do so as an independent nation. Meanwhile, the UK wishes to have full access to EU markets to sell its fish, but the EU in return favours full access to British waters for its fishing vessels, which the UK does not wish to concede.

Prime minister Boris Johnson has been vocal in saying that both sides should “move on” if a deal is not agreed by the EU summit starting on October 15.

The absence of a trade deal will see UK-EU trade default to World Trade Organization terms once the post-Brexit transition period lapses on December 31.

Both the prime minister and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen recently acknowledged the importance of a deal and told their negotiators to “work intensively” toward one.

On Thursday, Charles Michel said that “significant steps” needed to be taken by the UK side to reach a deal, while Ireland’s taoiseach Micheál Martin echoed those words and said that “movement in terms of getting into end-state negotiations” was needed.

Martin said that the “mood” of negotiations “appears to have changed” and that “more intensified engagement” was evident.

He added: "But mood is one thing. It does need substance to follow the mood."

A day earlier, Lord Frost said that both sides were still “some way away” from an agreement and the UK would “prosper” whether or not one was eventually found.

He did concede, however, that he would “very much prefer” a free-trade deal to be in place.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove, who is in charge of no-deal contingency planning and overseeing negotiations, said that he had “cause for steady optimism” based on how the talks were progressing.

As the so-called “moment of truth” draws ever nearer, British businesses are determined to remain optimistic about the future once Brexit, in whatever form it takes for trade with the EU, is fully enacted.

Mark Barnes, the managing director of world leading loudspeaker components and sound systems manufacturer, Fane International, spoke to The Parliamentary Review about his views on Brexit and the opportunities that will be available to British SMEs to push ‘Brand Britain’.

Barnes said: “A Britain outside the EU holds enormous opportunities for British SMEs, and ‘Brand Britain’ is of massive importance to us. Britain continues to have a strong cachet in developing markets around the world – enormously exciting markets which exhibit year-on-year economic growth rates far in excess of anything seen within the EU. We are keen to seize these opportunities and view the new position of the UK as an independent sovereign state as an exciting new dawn for British business and industry.”

Discussing how Fane International had been planning for Brexit since the 2016 referendum on EU membership, Barnes added: “We have had years to plan for the UK’s departure from the EU and adapt to the developing political and business environment in compliance with the 2016 referendum result. For this reason, we are investing in new markets through recruitment of international sales and business development managers, who will handle our activities in key world regions.

“The first of these is the Asia-Pacific region, where our historic links in India give us a unique opportunity to drive growth in this enormously vibrant market. The recruitment of local industrial specialists, who operate on the ground inside the target region and have an understanding of the specific nuances of the domestic business culture, is already enabling us to meet the challenges of the future with confidence and optimism.”

Whatever may become of the UK’s trading relationship with the EU, those businesses that have made a success of trading with non-European markets can look to the future with optimism. Those who do rely heavily on trade with the continent will be left with a nervous wait over the coming week as negotiations reach their conclusion, but nevertheless now is the time to be adapting and innovating to open up new opportunities in order to circumvent the issues that could arise from any eventuality.

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Scott Challinor
Business Editor
October 10th 2020, 8:03am

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