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Industry responds to Article 50 announcement

BMF urges government to negotiate a mutually beneficial agreement

Responding to the Article 50 announcement, the Builders Merchants’ Federation (BMF) has urged Theresa May and Davis Davis to negotiate a mutually beneficial new customs agreement based on zero or low tariffs.

The BMF is concerned that leaving the Customs Union without a comprehensive UK-EU free trade agreement will unsettle business confidence and planned investments, with consequences for the building materials’ supply chain.

They believe more should be done to prepare for the possibility of no deal with the EU – and the unwanted extra bureaucratic and financial burdens that will arise from that.

John Newcomb, managing director of the BMF, said: “Builders’ merchants already face significant material price rises due to currency fluctuations and worry that proper consideration is not being given to other obstacles that hamper trade.

“Ministers ought to be looking at whether HMRC and other agencies have sufficient resources to deal with millions more customs’ declarations that will be necessary. If border inspections at ports are not properly resourced, consignments will be stuck on the quayside causing unnecessary backlogs and delays in fulfilling customer orders.”

Last month, the Swedish National Board of Trade said that all Brexit scenarios would mean increased business costs as administrative requirements and controls are applied. Sweden is the UK’s most significant timber trading partner so any forecast of more expensive and difficult trading arrangements will have significant implications for importers and merchants.

BSRIA has welcomed the government announcement of triggering Article 50, starting the two-year process for Brexit.

Julia Evans, BSRIA chief executive, commented: “There has been much chaos and mixed-messages surrounding Brexit since June last year so BSRIA welcomes the announcement that Article 50 will be triggered. We trust that this will bring much-needed clarity and order in the ongoing Brexit debate.

“The specifics of which EU rules and regulations the UK will be able to ‘keep’ remain to be seen and are evidentially up for negotiation. What industry does need is strong leadership to bring economic confidence and stability, avoiding a disruptive cliff-edge.

“Indeed, as we move forward, we must not lose sight of the fact that it is crucial that the construction industry’s voice is heard in the Brexit deliberations. What is evident is that the ‘construction industry is open for business.”