The UK’s leading lobby group for retailers has urged the government to prioritise reaching a free trade agreement with the EU as Article 50 was triggered today.
The triggering of Article 50 commences the process of Brexit, with the aim of having the UK leave the European Union within two years as voted in last June’s referendum.
British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said the UK’s retail industry “depends on a continuation of tariff-free trade on all products” with the EU, and this needed to be prioritised so consumers are not “hit with the costs of unwanted import tariffs at a time when the pound is already weakened”.
She recommended the UK pursued a “phased implementation” scheme as she believes it will maintain a free and open trading environment until a new trade deal could come into force.
“Whether through reaching a new trading relationship quickly or securing a phased implementation deal, this must be at the heart of plans for a smooth and orderly Brexit,” Dickinson said.
She also said UK’s post-Brexit labour and immigration policy should be framed to enable retailers and other domestic firms to access the skills and workers they need from the EU.
“The UK retail industry employs approximately 120,000 EU nationals who make a huge contribution in every type of role from the boardroom to distribution centres and customer service,” Dickinson said.
“Workers from the European Union are part of the reason that British retailers are often able to deliver affordable and high-quality goods.
“UK’s post-Brexit labour and immigration policy, should therefore be framed to enable domestic firms, including retailers themselves, to access the skills they need.”