Arguably the UK’s access to the free market has been a key factor in the rise of low-cost carriers over the last twenty years. It could be said that most of us have benefited from the freedom to establish or set up business in countries with low labour costs and from the ability to operate anywhere in the EU without any limitations to pricing, frequency or capacity.
What about the ability of UK shipping companies to trade within Europe?
During the referendum 2016, the Freight Transport Association took a neutral stance, but now they say there is an element of uncertainty over how goods will be moved through Europe and they are keen to ensure the ‘simple trade agreements’ already in place continue.
As the Prime Minister attempts to retain the right of British shipping companies to carry goods to or from EU ports, the post Brexit future of freight in Europe is unclear. So much depends on negotiation as well as when we decide to impose article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
Being part of the EU offers UK companies access to a single European market and if Angela Merkle’s statement is anything to go by it looks like there will be no free trade without free movement. Following Brexit, the UK might still have access in some form to the single market and transport legislation, for example if it became a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), but the degree of access would clearly depend on the type of exit scenario.
What is certain is that with change comes opportunity for business. If the prospect of free trade is a slim one then the companies to benefit will be the forward thinkers who, unlike the government, have a plan for post Brexit Britain.
Once the Article 50 trigger has been pulled, the UK would have 2 years to get itself in order. Tory Chairman Patrick McLoughlin indicated on the BBC Andrew Marr program that this would be before the next general election, so any time between now and 2020 (Unless Corbyn gets his way and we get an earlier one!) . Yet more uncertainty. However, given the enormity of the task, which includes the review of British law that now incorporates European Law, it may be just as well we have some time on our hands.