News Item: Brexit Could be the Catalyst for a Bright New Dawn

However HAE EHA members feel about Brexit the reality is that the UK has now left the European Union - the country is currently going through the final transitional stage with everything still in sync until the 31st December 2020.

The UK now needs to plough its own furrow and make its own way in the world. The country has always seen itself as being nimble and able to adapt to changing circumstances, rising to the challenge of being a sovereign country striking individual trade deals with different nations should not faze it.   

This nation has a great reputation for standing together to make things happen, evident in the first lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic when Britain's biggest companies, such as Dyson, Airbus UK, Jaguar Land Rover, Vauxhall and Rolls-Royce rallied round to change production and manufacture thousands of ventilators for the NHS as part of a 'war time effort'.

Aside from the advantages our membership of the EU clearly provided, it did mean we have been restricted in what we can do, now the UK is busy using the flexibility of not being part of a rigid trading bloc by arranging our own trade deals with the world, which will roll over on January 1 2021.

While there are still plenty of trading partners around the globe waiting to be signed, sealed and delivered, so far, the UK has reached agreements with more than 50 countries or territories*, including Japan (value to the UK in 2018 £29.1bn), Switzerland (£32.4bn), Iceland and Norway (£26.8bn) and South Korea (£14.8bn).

Our eighth largest non-EU trading partner Canada is also looking forward to reaching a deal, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently told the Financial Times: "Canada is a really easy one, we're there for it and we'd like to do it."

But what about the mega of all deals - pulling off a free trade agreement with our biggest market, the EU? At the time of going to press the UK's chief negotiator Lord David Frost is locking horns with his European Commission counterpart. Progress seems slow and keeps running into roadblocks but behind the scenes there is the basis of a deal to be done and put before the European Parliament for ratification before the Christmas recess.

If all else fails, the UK will fall back on the WTO treaty GATT (The General Agreement on Trade Tariffs). This does mean tariffs but these are not massive, mostly ranging between 2% and 5%. Some practices will need to change, that's inevitable, but seeing it in a negative way would be the wrong way of looking at it.

The UK market to some extent became slightly sluggish and bloated when it took on board stuff from the single market. Providing the British government doesn't get carried away with over documenting and gold plating everything the new trading arrangements will allow a much more agile response when opportunities come along.

It is hoped life outside the EU should not be too disruptive for the majority of HAE EHA members and it will be business as usual, however those involved in manufacturing with markets abroad may need to declare more of the components used in the process as duty could be calculated and payable when exporting to Europe.

HAE EHA members with head offices overseas will also need to ensure that they are compliant for the transfer of personal ID data to the subsidiary in the UK, and vice versa when companies' owners are based in this country. 

Even if negotiations between the UK and the EU don't reach a trade deal, businesses will still need to comply with updated UK data protection laws, post-Brexit. The modified UK legislation will result in the 2018 Data Protection Act and current GDPR rules being merged to create UK GDPR.

In a nutshell, at the end of the transition period the UK will become a 'third country' to the EU and data transfers within the European Economic Area (EEA) will be subject to restrictions unless the European Commission grants a status called 'adequacy', which is awarded if countries are judged to have similar data protection rights as the EU. If there isn't an agreement on the adequacy side of things documents will need to be exchanged using SCC (Standard Contractual Clauses).

Leaving the EU shouldn't be seen as a change for the worst, but an opportunity for businesses to take advantage of the UK's new status as a sovereign global trading nation befitting the sixth largest economy in the world and with the potential to lower corporation tax, there is no doubt HAE EHA members will play their part and rise to the challenge.

With a covid-19 vaccine now available, 2021 has the potential to be a very ambitious and successful year for HAE EHA members if we all make it happen.

* Department of International Trade