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A Canada-style Brexit trade agreement has been talked up recently as a possible alternative to a no-deal Brexit, but Stephen Phipson, chief executive officer of Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation, warns that it’s not the answer. Anna Tobin reports
A free trade agreement based along the lines of the one that Canada negotiated with the EU has recently been suggested as a possible alternative to a no-deal Brexit. Stephen Phipson of Make UK says that this is not the solution to the Government’s Brexit woes and it would not be welcomed by manufacturers. “Over the course of this week there has been significant comment about the benefits of a Canada-style deal,” he says. “Leaving the EU on such terms would involve investment in technological solutions and infrastructure that would take years to roll out and cost billions of pounds with willing partners on both sides of the Channel.
“As a result, it would put thousands of manufacturing jobs and hundreds of billions of pounds of exports at risk and, at worst, could destroy much of Britain’s manufacturing base. Having been to Canada, I know a customs model built around this is naive and unrealistic as a short-term solution and my view is even stronger today given how close the UK is to Brexit.”
“The issue is how to convert from the system we have now to a radically different alternative given the complex supply chains stretching across Europe. Put simply, the idea that it provides a meaningful solution to the challenge of leaving the most integrated customs union in the world in less than 200 days’ time is pure fantasy.”
“This plan has already been considered once by the Cabinet and rejected on the basis that it is fundamentally flawed and risks making Brexit a total failure. I can’t see anything here that changes that assessment.”
“The Canadian model does have positive points, but it cost billions of dollars to implement… As well as Government investment, companies must also spend huge amounts of money on equipment, technology, training and infrastructure. The challenge and costs of this system are very high, and often out of reach for medium and smaller companies. It bears absolutely no comparison with the frictionless trade environment we have here…
“Instead of looking at increasingly incredible solutions we must focus on practical and efficient solutions based on the reality of the highly successful and proven trading environment we already have and upon which so many jobs and families depend.”