MPA updates Brexit priorities for Government
In anticipation of the Government’s triggering of Article 50 this month, the MPA has updated its ‘Brexit priorities for the Mineral Products industry’ briefing, outlining the key points that the Government should take into account as it begins the process of withdrawing the UK from the European Union.
Since the EU Referendum on 23rd June last year, the MPA has continued to adopt a neutral position, focussing on providing unbiased information to inform its membership. After consulting its members, the six priorities that the industry is inviting Government to focus on are the need to:
• Build Confidence for Investment
• Boost Growth
• Maximise Access to Markets
• Maintain Access to Labour and Skills
• Maintain Regulatory and Standards Equivalence
• Rebalance Regulation Post Brexit
The UK, as one of the largest economies in the world and the 2nd largest economy in Europe, needs to remain an attractive place for both international and UK businesses to choose to invest. Government should seize every opportunity to build confidence in the short and long term performance of the UK economy and maintain stability. Every effort must also be made to seek the fullest access to European and non-European markets using comprehensive free trade agreements in preference to adopting WTO rules. In the UK, businesses need to see that Government has credible policies to ensure the UK economy remains resilient and attractive for investment to take place.
The delivery of infrastructure investment, as outlined in the Government’s National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline, and higher housing activity, are essential elements of boosting productivity and economic growth, catching up on years of underperformance in these areas.
On average, 3% of the Mineral Products industry’s workforce comes from the EU, increasing to 9% for activities directly related to freight transport by road. These workers are vital to ensure supply chains function effectively. Currently, there is no guarantee that EU citizens now resident in the UK will have a continuing right to reside in and work in the UK following Brexit. This uncertainty needs resolution at the earliest opportunity if current skills shortages are not to be exacerbated.
The Government also needs to sustain its commitment to existing regulatory initiatives, such as the implementation of the Cutting Red Tape review for mineral extraction, and focus on maintaining and improving the international competitiveness of energy intensive industries such as cement and lime. Reducing the cumulative impacts of regulation and taxation remains vital if we are to retain investment in UK production of these and other important mineral products.
Further, the UK should continue to retain influence in European product technical standards development via the British Standards Institution (BSI), the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) and design codes to maintain world leading standards for the UK industry and its customers in the UK and the rest of Europe.
Commenting, Chief Executive of the Mineral Products Association, Nigel Jackson, said:
“Much has happened politically since last summer, but more needs to be done, both politically and economically, to give the clarity needed by businesses to sustain investment confidence beyond the triggering of Article 50.
The economy has remained resilient in the short term, but the issue always was, and remains, what will happen post-Brexit in the medium and longer term? Given that the public political conversation in the UK has not yet involved the other 27 EU member states, we are currently no wiser as to the likely outcome of negotiations. We must therefore contemplate the possibility that no deal may mean a clean break in 2019 and trading arrangements under WTO rules.
Hopefully, the next 2 years will see the political rhetoric give way to a more practical and pragmatic approach which not only protects the UK economy, but enables it to thrive. We, like other key industries, want to help Government achieve the best possible deal for the UK. We hope, therefore that Government will listen and consider positive and well intentioned advice on its merits, particularly when it is evidence based. In these challenging times, it is very important that all stakeholders work together to constructively develop a UK negotiating strategy which will bolster confidence and encourage investment."