The UK government has today laid out plans to deliver on its manifesto commitment to ensure businesses across the whole of the United Kingdom will continue to enjoy seamless internal trade post-Brexit.
From 1 January 2021, powers in at least 70 policy areas previously exercised at an EU level will flow directly to the devolved administrations in Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast for the first time. This will give the devolved administrations power over more issues than they have ever had before, without removing any of their current powers.
Powers are set to return across a raft of areas, including regulations for energy efficiency of buildings, air quality and animal welfare. To ensure businesses can continue to trade seamlessly across the UK as they do now, new legislation will be brought forward to preserve access to all parts of the UK for goods and services.
Under plans now open for consultation, we will strengthen and maintain the coherence of the UK’s internal market, guaranteeing the continued ability of all UK companies to trade unhindered in every part of the United Kingdom, while ensuring the continued prosperity and wellbeing of people and businesses across all four nations.
All powers that have been devolved will remain devolved. The proposals announced today are designed to support the economy of the entire United Kingdom, avoiding unnecessary burdens and costs being placed on businesses or consumers, providing continued certainty for people and businesses to work and trade freely across the whole of the UK, and giving additional confidence to trading partners and overseas investors as we leave the transition period.
Without this action to preserve the status quo of seamless domestic trade, businesses across the UK could face serious problems: a Welsh lamb producer could end up unable to sell their lamb in Scotland, or Scotch whisky producers could lose access to supply from English barley farmers. These proposals create certainty for businesses that might otherwise face a complex and increasingly fragmented regulatory environment.
Many businesses depend on trade with the home nations more than any other partner. In Scotland, for example, sales of produce to the rest of the UK are worth £52.1bn per year, accounting for over 60% of all exports, more than all other nations which Scotland trades with combined. Similarly, about 50% of Northern Ireland’s sales are to Great Britain and 75% of exports of Welsh goods are consumed in other parts of the UK.
The proposals in the White Paper include:
- the principle of mutual recognition – regulations from one part of the UK will be recognised across the country to ensure the devolved administrations can set their own rules and standards, but still welcome the trade of businesses based anywhere in the UK
- the principle of non-discrimination – so there is a level playing field for companies trading in the UK, regardless of where in the UK the business is based
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “The UK’s internal market has functioned seamlessly for centuries. When we exit the transition period at the end of the year, we want to ensure the most successful political and economic union of nations in the world continues to grow and thrive.
“This plan protects jobs and livelihoods. Without these necessary reforms, the way we trade goods and services between the home nations could be seriously impacted, harming the way we do business within our own borders.
“Ensuring businesses will be able to continue trading freely across all four corners of the UK without the burden of inconsistent regulation or additional costs will be essential as we fire up our economic engines as we recover from coronavirus.”