If Brexit were a mobile phone…

As an uneasy recruitment industry views proceedings from a distance, today marks the beginning of the UK-EU Brexit talks.

Last week, trade expert Sebastian Remøy described the phase the UK is now entering as “the talks about the talks” and predicted no substantive talks will take place until September this year, Recruiter editor DeeDee Doke reports.

Speaking at a briefing last week hosted by law firm Mishcon de Reya, Remøy voiced concern over the current ‘deal or no deal’ scenarios. “The worst deal you could have is no deal,” Remoy told the audience. “Then the wheels start coming off the bus.” 

Remøy, president – public affairs at strategic communications firm Kreab, was part of a three-person panel discussing potential changes to the UK business immigration system and the future of the UK-EU relationship. 

Also on the panel were CEO Tim Cook of nGAGE Specialist Recruitment and former Labour MP Chris Pond, who is chair of the Lending Standards Board and vice chair of the Financial Inclusion Commission.

Remøy is European chair of the Brexit Working Group of the Transatlantic Business Council. Previously, he was part of a team of European Free Trade Association (EFTA) officials who administered the European Economic Area Agreement, often referred to as the ‘Norway option’ in the Brexit debate.  

In a light-hearted comparison of Brexit to mobile phones, Remøy referred to the Norway option as the iPhone version of Brexit, in which users receive regular software updates “eight times a year”. With a hard Brexit, the user – or the UK – is on their own.

While a deal costing the UK £100bn has been spoken of, Remøy said it was “not likely” to cost that amount but still a deal costing “tens of billions would still be hard”. He identified 49 individual issues plus 50+ trade negotiations and “everything else” that must be sorted out in the Brexit negotiations.

In the citizens rights/migration arena, a likely “sticking point” between the UK and the EU is an open-ended right to settle for current and future family members of EU citizens who have lived in the UK at the date of entry of the withdrawal agreement and of UK nationals who have lived in the EU27 at the same time.

Other potential sticking points are the right for the EU Commission to have full powers to monitor the UK’s treatment of EU citizens (“a likely clash point”, Remøy said) and around full jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union for citizens seeking recourse to disputes over citizen rights, Remøy said.

A looming question in the employment arena will be around recognition of qualifications for migrants from EU and the four EFTA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) arriving and qualifying after the withdrawal agreement takes force. The EU is currently calling for recognised qualifications obtained in any of the EU28 member states – including those qualifications obtained in third countries and recognised in the EU – before then. But that issue is “not accounted for” in a hard Brexit scenario, Remøy said.

According to statistics from the European Commission Regulated Professions Database, 19% of applications to have qualifications recognised in the UK come from Spain. Following on is Poland with 11% of applications, Ireland with 10%, and Italy and Romania both at 9%. The majority of the applications to have qualifications recognised– 41% – come from “all other countries”.

Ultimately, the EU seeks transparency around the negotiations, while the UK is favouring a ‘closed doors’ approach, Remøy said.

In discussing the wider business view of Brexit, nGAGE’s Cook said that business people were “quite simple [uncomplicated]”, and were tired of being told “ ‘this could happen, that could happen’…we want to know what’s going to happen!”.

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