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'Creativity' needed for Brexit deal after May speech

Prime minister Theresa May’s move to back a transition period after Brexit has been praised by British Retail Consortium (BRC) boss Helen Dickinson.

During her speech in Florence today (22 September), May called for a two-year transition deal after the UK leaves the European Union in March 2019, effectively delaying a permanent trade agreement until 2021.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said the move would allow for time to “adapt new customs controls to avoid disruption” as well as a “final deal which avoids new tariffs” while household budgets remain squeezed.

Dickinson said: “A period of implementation is vital to offer certainty for businesses and allow them to prepare.

“It provides welcome assurance that existing trading conditions are to remain in place based on the existing structure of EU rules and regulations. This will aid the free flow of goods in the transitional period post-2019.”

However, Dickinson emphasised that “clarity” is paramount in the next few months, to ensure businesses and consumers have the “deepest access to European markets in goods and services” after Brexit.

Dickinson said: “Clarity from both sides on exactly how this [aspiration for access] can be delivered and on what terms is essential in the coming weeks and months. Clarity together with creativity are required to deliver a deal that works for retail businesses and consumers.”

She also said the prime minister was right to offer “a real guarantee” to EU workers and UK nationals with jobs at stores and supply chains, but called for “more practical details about the process for registration and securing their status”.

“[The] UK government should negotiate with the EU Commission so that preferential reciprocal labour market access across industries like retail can be put in place for the post-implementation period,” said Dickinson.

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