Comment by Gillian McKenzie
So, the wheels are in motion.
Prime minister Theresa May has confirmed she will trigger Article 50 within the first three months of 2017, meaning Britain could leave the EU by mid-2019.
After revealing the timetable, May told the BBC that business owners she had spoken to “know it is not going to be plain sailing and there will be bumps in the road and they want certainty as soon as possible”; she assured she would be “ambitious as we go into discussions”.
That’s as may be, but the route to Brexit still seems far from clear.
And businesses need clarity – especially those in Scotland’s hospitality sector, many of which benefit hugely from the free movement of people in terms of both visitors and staff. The home secretary’s comments last week about cracking down on work visas were less than reassuring.
Of course the ramifications for the licensed trade extend beyond people.
Scotland’s bars and restaurants offer a huge selection of food and drink from Europe, and the slump in sterling, which hit a 31-year low against the dollar last week, won’t help the cost of imported goods.
It’s causing concern for many operators, with a recent poll by the Scottish Tourism Alliance revealing that 44% of business owners expect costs to increase, and that ‘uncertainty’ was the key word when operators were asked about concerns in the wake of the EU referendum.
Addressing this uncertainty is fundamental.
It’s crucial politicians do as much as they can to smooth out the ‘bumps in the road’ before continuing down the path to Brexit.