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Cabinet Brexit approval: 'urgently needed certainty' for UK retail

By Huw Hughes

15 Nov 2018


After what feels like an eternity of speculation, Theresa May has finally published the full text of her Brexit deal. The 585-page document agreed to by the prime minister and her Cabinet on Wednesday sets out the provisional guidelines for Britain’s much-awaited withdrawal from the European Union.

May did not receive unanimous support from her abinet for a deal in the meeting which she described as “a long, detailed, and impassioned debate”. The deal did, however, confirm many key facts to the anticipating British public, such as that the UK will remain in the EU customs union, while Northern Ireland will remain within parts of the EU single market.

The draft has been long awaited by the struggling UK retail industry and comes amid dropping customer confidence and a high street struggling with store closures.

’It is vital that we avoid the cliff edge of no deal’

Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said in a statement that the draft was “urgently needed certainty as we approach the date of the UK’s departure from the EU.”

She continued: “It is vital that we avoid the cliff edge of no deal in March 2019 as this could immediately lead to consumers facing higher prices and reduced availability of many everyday products.”

The UK will not be able to withdraw unilaterally from the arrangement, for which no fixed end date is set. Instead, an independent panel will decide when the measure ends. It was also confirmed that the Brexit transition period could be extended beyond December 31, 2020, if the future relationship of the UK and EU has not been agreed.

Commenting on the 5-hour meeting in a statement at Downing Street, May said: “I believe that what I owe to this country is to take decisions that are in the national interest. And I firmly believe, with my head and my heart, that this is a decision which is in the best interests of our entire United Kingdom.”

The Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) director-general, Carolyn Fairbairn, said in a statement: “After 20 months of debate, this agreement by cabinet is progress. It moves the UK one step away from the nightmare precipice of no deal and the harm it would cause to communities across the country.

“Securing a transition period has long been firms’ top priority and every day that passes without one means lost investment and jobs, hitting the most vulnerable hardest.

“Time is now up. This deal is a compromise, including for business, but it offers that essential transitional period as a step back from the cliff-edge.”

Following the announcement both the pound and euro rose slightly, though there were still more pressing concerns that the draft deal might still be blocked by future parliamentary hurdles. The pound rose to 1.2998 dollars after peaking at 1.3072 dollars on Wednesday. The euro also rose by 0.15 percent to 1.1325 dollars.

Ray Attrill, head of currency strategy at National Australia Bank, commented: “Getting the draft approved by the parliament will be extremely challenging and that’s why we are seeing sterling gains capped at 1.3.”

But this is far from the end for May’s struggles, as she still faces challenges from her opposition as well as closer to home in her own party in months to come.

The agreement will be put to a Brexit summit of EU leaders in the final week of November, before returning to the UK Parliament in early December.

Photo credit: Pexels, Dominika Gregušová