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Black Country business leaders relieved as Brexit deal confirmed

The announcement of a trade deal between the UK and the European Union has been greeted with relief by business leaders in the West Midlands.

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Chief executive of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce Corin Crane said it was encouraging that the region's businesses will be able to export and import with a deal in place

The Prime Minister made the announcement from Downing Street on Christmas Eve after all-night talks finally ended in an agreement that came 1,645 days after the people of the UK voted for Brexit.

Boris Johnson briefed his cabinet after speaking to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on the phone.

The deal document is thought to be around 2,000 pages long and the House of Commons is likely to be recalled on Sunday approve it. Meanwhile a vote by the European Parliament to give consent isn’t possible given the lack of time, so the EU capitals have to agree to “provisional application” of the deal by January 1 and MEPs will vote later in the month.

The Black Country Chamber of Commerce's chief executive Corin Crane said: “More goods and services are traded with the EU locally than other markets around the world and it is encouraging that our businesses will be able to export and import with a deal in place. As we reach the end of 2020, businesses across the Black Country are facing significant challenges and any news minimising further disruption will be welcomed by businesses now that there is some degree of certainty around how we retain access this vital market.

"Whilst the new relationship will be different from the one we had when we were a member of the EU or during this year’s transition period, avoiding a no deal Brexit was absolutely paramount and many businesses across our region will welcome today’s announcement. Over the next few days and weeks we will be scrutinising the deal and will provide regular updates to our members about what it means for their business.”

Other business leaders in the West Midlands warned that businesses now have little time to adapt to the historic Brexit deal.

'Devil is in the detail'

Paul Faulkner, chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said: “We are in the midst of a pandemic and economic crisis. Businesses need a UK-EU trade deal that will keep barriers to and costs of doing business as low as possible.

“After an incredibly difficult year, businesses will be relieved to hear that a deal has finally been agreed between EU and UK negotiating teams. Of course, a deal, while hugely welcome, does not mean sticking with the status quo – there will still be significant changes to the ways in which the UK and EU trade from January 1 as we leave the single market and customs union. Our expert international trade advisors and documentations team will continue to navigate businesses through this in the New Year.

“While this is a very positive development – as always seems to be the way with Brexit – it’s not completely over yet. There are still final political hoops for the deal to jump through such as a vote in UK Parliament; but it’s nearly there.

“The devil is in the detail – and with just eight days to go until the end of the Brexit transition period and Christmas holidays firmly underway – there is precious little time for businesses or MPs to get to grips with it before the new year.

Boris Johnson gave a press conference after the deal was announced

“We will be following developments closely and will share more detail on what they, and the potential agreement, mean in practice for businesses over the coming days.

“While Brexit remains the single biggest shift in the UK’s political and trading relationships in a generation, Covid-19 has now dwarfed it in terms of short term economic impact. This is one Christmas wish granted, now the Government must take action – both to support those businesses most impacted by the changes still to come, and to ensure previously viable businesses are able to survive this pandemic.”

Stephen Morley, president of the West Bromwich-based Confederation of British Metalforming which represents more than 200 companies involved in the manufacture of fasteners, forgings, pressings, cold-rolled and sheet metal products, commented: “Whilst there will be a lot of political rhetoric on some of the details and who has got the best deal, the most critical thing for our members, who are predominately manufacturers, was to get a deal. Even if it’s classed as ‘hard’ Brexit, it will still be better than a no deal.

“It is being indicated that there will be minimal disruption to trading conditions and this will be seen as the overwhelming positive and gives our members a chance to review some of the finer details.

“Due to the deal going to the wire, it leaves us with some work to do over the holiday period and, whilst the vast majority of our members are on shutdown, we’ll be in direct contact with the Deapartment for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to review the detail so we can try to answer any questions that arise when industry is back.”

Tony Danker, the director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, said:  “We congratulate David Frost, Michel Barnier and their teams for this landmark achievement, and we praise the courage of our political leaders in reaching a deal.

“This will come as a huge relief to British business at a time when resilience is at an all-time low. But coming so late in the day it is vital that both sides take instant steps to keep trade moving and services flowing while firms adjust.

“Firms will immediately study the details, when they can, to understand the implications for their companies, customers and clients but immediate guidance from government is required across all sectors.

“Above all, we need urgent confirmation of grace periods to smooth the cliff edge on everything from data to rules of origin and we need to ensure we keep goods moving across borders.

“The UK has a bright future outside the European Union and with a deal secured we can begin our new chapter on firmer ground.”