MPA updates Brexit priorities for Government
Government invited to focus on the mineral products industry’s six key priorities
IN anticipation of the Government’s triggering of Article 50 this month, the Mineral Products Association (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.
The MPA says that since the EU Referendum on 23 June last year, it has continued to adopt a neutral position, focusing on providing unbiased information to inform its membership. After consulting its members, the six priorities that the industry is inviting the Government to focus on are the need to:
- Build confidence for investment
- Boost growth
- Maximize access to markets
- Maintain access to labour and skills
- Maintain regulatory and standards equivalence
- Rebalance regulation post-Brexit.
As one of the largest economies in the world and the second-largest economy in Europe, the MPA says the UK needs to remain an attractive place for both international and UK businesses to choose to invest.
It says the Government should seize every opportunity to build confidence in the short- and long-term performance of the UK economy and maintain stability, and that 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 World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
Moreover, in the UK, businesses need to see that the Government has credible policies to ensure the UK economy remains resilient and attractive for investment to take place.
The Association says 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, to catch up on years of underperformance in these areas.
On access to labour and skills, the MPA says that, 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, it argues.
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, and the Association says 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. The MPA warns that reducing the cumulative impacts of regulation and taxation remains vital if investment in UK production of these and other important mineral products is to be retained.
Furthermore, the Association believes 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.
Nigel Jackson, chief executive of the MPA, 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 two 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.’