While I was on vacation, I missed the moment when the UK officially left the EU. I did keep an eye on the festivities and commiserations from the Caribbean, and it did seem to pass without much fuss. I note that many who voted to leave saw it as a moment of celebration, with plenty of parties going. I saw that candle-lit vigils happened in Scotland.
Many of you know how I voted, and for me, this was a moment where we could finally draw a line under phase one of Brexit and work towards building a new relationship with the EU. Long overdue, and it took another General Election to break the deadlock in Parliament. Had it happened in March of last year we would have had much more time to negotiate a trade deal with the EU. As it is, we have until the end of this year. I note also that we have left the EU and not Europe. Many European countries are not part of the EU, and you cannot leave a continent, but you can a political union.
A moment to build
The reality of what lies ahead is difficult. To suggest otherwise would be ludicrous. Those who have spoken before about a trade deal being easy to do were talking nonsense. However, it is not impossible. Both the UK and EU have the resources and people to work together on putting together a deal every day of the year until December 31st, should they choose to do so. Whilst we are no longer a member of the EU, that does not mean there aren’t opportunities to shoot for.
Lets be realistic about things. Trade between the UK and EU will continue no matter the result at the end of the year. Hopefully some kind of an agreement will be put together to avoid tariffs or limit their impact as much as possible. Should a deal not come to fruition, WTO (World Trade Organisation) rules would apply. This will likely mean tariffs, but as I understand it, we have the capacity to set our own tariffs, and the Government has already said in the past that they would seek zero tariffs with the EU and rest of the world where it can be done. Britain buys and values much of what the EU produces and the same goes for the EU and British goods. Trade will not stop.
The scale of the task at hand though is immense. To attempt to strike a deal with a bloc that is notoriously slow and frequently waits until the clock runs down to its last to assert pressure isn’t going to be easy. And I fully expect the EU to wait until the very last moment again. Remember, its in their interest to ensure that the rest of the bloc sees life outside the EU as less prosperous. They won’t come to the UK with open arms. But the situation is pressing, and they will want a deal, or even some kind of barebones agreement by the end of the year to avoid a WTO outcome.
As a nation, its now time to look at this year as a chance to build, work hard and lay the foundations for a positive decade. I appreciate that many of you reading this will have voted to remain. You did not get the result you wanted and I am sure the result of the election was not what you wanted either. However, that is how our system works, and the path forward is now set. The UK remains a place of massive opportunity and so long as we work hard and utilise the talent at our disposal, there is nothing to limit what we can do.
Busy start to 2020
From a fenestration point of view, I am seeing a decent start to the year. The end of 2019 was dire. Uncertainty and another election meant we all could have probably packed up and gone home for the entirity of December. Given the size of the win for Boris however, that cleared up a huge amount of uncertainty and suddenly the path forwards was clear for the first time in over three years.
It meant people and businesses knew what was going to happen, which meant decisions could be made. At our installations business, I am already seeing a major change in not only the number of leads being made, but the nature of them. Lots of full houses. Plenty of major renovations where home owners are gutting their properties and starting from scratch. Crucially, sales are being made. Home owners are committing and I have no doubt that the clarity brought about by the election result and the completion of phase one of Brexit is a large part of that.
I am confident that the rest of 2020 will be a much more positive year than 2019. It was a tough one for the industry, as we saw at the end of last year and start of this one with a slew of companies, some high profile ones, going to the wall. All being well that hangover is now over and our industry can look forward to at least one year of fairly smooth waters.
Trade deal countdown
As you may have noticed I have started a countdown on my home page to the end of the year, the deadline for a UK-EU trade deal. I will continue with my Brexit coverage until then, or longer if there is an extension to the trade talks. As of writing there are 45 weeks and 6 days. We won’t hear much about the talks in comparison to the last three and a half years. But as we draw near to the end of the year, expect activity and media coverage to ramp as no doubt it will be left late in the day to get a deal done!
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