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Brexit – A Painless Deal is Not an Option

As I write, the EU and UK negotiators have now agreed on a withdrawal agreement and very much an outline deal for the future relationship but the political messages are mixed on both sides. The UK’s offer appears uninviting to the EU: it’s between the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal or the EU accepting that a Member State leaves having cherry-picked free movement of goods from among the four freedoms.

The so-called Chequers proposal tried to balance the two opposing wings of the Conservative Party. Brexiteers dislike it because, while it lasts, it would permit no trade deals with third countries, at least on goods – though a trade deal on services alone is unheard of. But on the other hand, they see that at least the UK will no longer be an EU member after March 2019, at which point their nirvana is a step closer. Those seeking to preserve UK export earnings point out that the proposed deal would leave service industries out in the cold. Services currently account for 40% of UK exports to the EU.  

The deal would be bad for any regulated service industry because UK qualified professionals would no longer be automatically able to work in the EU. For example, doctors, lawyers, accountants, nurses, engineers, architects and tourist guides would have to satisfy a hotchpotch of 27 sets of national regulations. Currently, EU rules trump local regulation and permit free movement of service providers.