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Comment: We need certainty at speed over Brexit

Following the European Union referendum result, we need certainty at speed. It is important to have clarity over how the government intends to deliver the electorate’s wish to leave the EU, what it aims to achieve in its EU exit deal and what will be the knock-on implications for national and local policy agendas.

The very first thing the government must do is organise itself and provide direction. Unlike in a general election, we do not have the benefit of a manifesto as a reference point, and there are many unanswered questions.

During the summer, and certainly by the time the UK issues its article 50 letter, the government must put in place an effective and coherent mechanism for negotiating with the rest of the EU and for consulting interested parties in the UK. Our European colleagues used the time before the referendum to consider what they would do if the UK voted to leave. Consequently, they are more organised and more prepared for the exit negotiations, and they want to get on with them.

The government must develop clear objectives for what it wants to achieve from the exit negotiations. Top of our agenda would be to retain the benefits of the single market, thereby avoiding unnecessary extra costs such as customs duties and charges as goods move across EU borders.

Finally, we need to know how the Brexit process is going to affect the domestic agenda. Will there be parliamentary time or departmental resource to deal with anything other than Brexit issues over the next couple of years? We need the answer to this question so we can decide, as an organisation that advocates on public policy, how best to organise our own resources.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium

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