Trade needs Brexit clarity as a matter of urgency

WHEN Brexit secretary David Davis and Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, emerged from negotiations last week, it looked – on the face of it – as if giant strides could have been made.

Had the finer details on the post-Brexit free movement of people been agreed? Was there about to be an announcement on potential trade tariffs which could impact on the cost of imported food and wine? Were we about to receive details of travel requirements for EU citizens visiting the UK as tourists after Britain leaves the EU?

With exactly a year to go until ‘Brexit day’ (March 29, 2019), these are the kind of things that business owners in the hospitality industry want and need to know.

Sadly, however, we are still largely in the dark.

What we do know is that a 21-month transition, or implementation, period will kick in on Brexit day and run until December 31, 2020; and that EU citizens arriving in the UK between these dates will enjoy the same rights as those who arrive before Brexit.

This, of course, offers some short-term reassurance regarding staff.

But with Scotland’s hospitality sector said to employ around 27,000 EU workers, much greater detail of the long-term situation is needed.

As Willie Macleod of trade group UK Hospitality has said repeatedly, the loss of free movement will be “catastrophic” for Scotland’s hospitality industry.

With only a year to go until Brexit day, and then just shy of two years until the transition is due to be completed, the hospitality sector needs clarity – and quickly.