After a weekend away at the Prime Minister’s country house, Chequers, the government has published its Brexit White Paper, the document setting out its negotiating position for leaving the EU. The proposals have been controversial, with those who campaigned to stay in the EU calling them an unworkable fudge, while many of those who campaigned to leave feel it does not go far enough, and risks leaving the UK a ‘vassal state’ or ‘colony’ of the EU. This is all before two government ministers resigned and US President Donald Trump cast doubt on the possibility of a post-Brexit trade deal.
Be that as it may, the White Paper is still the best indication we have got of what a post-Brexit UK will look like. The childcare sector, like all other industries, will be affected by Brexit, albeit largely indirectly. The White Paper suggests that most consumer and employment rights will be largely unaffected, while efforts will be made to ensure that goods are able to move across borders ‘frictionlessly’. If achieved, this should mean that the contingency plans involving the stockpiling of processed foods will prove superfluous and a real crisis at the time of leaving averted.
The biggest single change will be the end of Freedom of Movement. EU citizens will no longer have an automatic right to work in the UK and UK citizens will not have an automatic right to work in the EU. This could affect childcare workers who work across borders, but whether it will simply mean more paperwork and administration, or something even more obstructive is hard to tell. Tightening border controls was central to the Leave campaign’s platform and it is here that the government is most likely to dig its heels in.
For the rest of the economy, the 80% called ‘services’, it is less clear what is proposed. Presently, operating from multiple sites across the EU is relatively easy, as regulations are harmonised and structures have evolved with the laws. The White Paper makes few specific proposals for managing services post-Brexit. For small businesses who do not work internationally the impact of uncertainty will be indirect, but it will be felt as economic realities change. Surviving and thriving in times of economic uncertainty requires strong commercial instincts, knowing when caution is called for when a bold risk might just be worth it.
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