Business groups call for ‘softer’ Brexit as negotiations begin

The Queen delivered her annual speech at the state opening of Parliament against a backdrop of political and economic uncertainty. This year’s speech outlined the government’s legislative plans for the next two years, following the government’s decision to cancel the 2018 Queen’s Speech in order to give MPs ‘extra time to deal with Brexit laws’.

The speech included a number of Brexit-related bills, designed to pave the way for the UK government to make future changes to UK laws. The bills also grant the UK government flexibility to accommodate trade agreements with the EU and other countries, control over the import and export of goods and the ability to end the free movement of EU citizens into the UK.

Other proposals outlined in the speech include a data protection bill designed to strengthen consumers’ rights, a national insurance contributions (NICs) bill aimed at ‘making the system fairer’, and a financial guidance and claims bill, which establishes a new statutory body to co-ordinate the provision of debt, money and pensions guidance.

The government also announced that it will issue three Finance Bills over the coming two years, in order to ‘implement Budget decisions’. Summer Finance Bill 2017 is set to outline ‘a range of tax measures’, including plans to tackle avoidance.

Ahead of the speech, leading UK business groups called on the government to secure continued access to the European single market until a final Brexit deal can be struck with the EU.

Commenting on the contents of the Queen’s Speech, Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: ‘While Brexit isn’t the top immediate priority for many businesses, firms of every size and shape want to avoid turbulence and confusion during the Brexit transition. The government’s proposed bills on trade, customs and immigration must minimise adjustment costs and maximise opportunities.’

Meanwhile, a snap poll carried out by the Institute of Directors (IoD) following the election found that business confidence in the UK economy has ‘fallen dramatically’.

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