Theresa May’s speech is another important milestone in the brexit process, once the business leaders are not completely disappointed.
The good news is that this is not a complacent speech.
It acknowledges the size and complexity of the task at hand and makes some practical concessions to the reality of eu trade.
Most of these concessions will satisfy the business community, but some may not satisfy her party members.
Perhaps the most striking commercial channel is the prime minister’s claim that Britain is prepared to pay for the retention of members of European regulators such as the European drug administration or the European aviation safety authority.
As the law changes, the British parliament can choose to make the same law – but if it does not, it may affect the membership of our institutions.
So parliament is still a sovereign state, but it may not actually be used in case we exit the institution. That sounds like a rule for some brexit consumers.
She also accepted that the rules on goods should be at least as high as those in the European Union – so, frankly, there is no bonfire in the business world that anyone wants to regulate.
In terms of services, which account for about three-quarters of the UK economy, she admits that services have never been included in any meaningful way in previous transactions and that accepting it will be difficult.
Financial services have the strongest tone. She says London is the world’s most important financial centre, and British taxpayers risk becoming their home – so Britain will never be a regular customer.
She called for a mutually agreed and permanent cooperation, an objective framework. This means that “equivalent” (the eu has already awarded a third country) may not be good enough, because it can be terminated in a short time. She said Philip Hammond would soon expand the British idea.
In customs, it seems that the new “partnership” with the eu has become the most popular choice. This will require the UK to carry out its own customs arrangements and to export agents to the eu when the goods arrive in the UK.
This option sounds very complicated, enterprises need to see more details, to make sure the government a very important problem to them — and Ireland border in the future have a solid answer.
As Adam Marshall of BCC put it: “the prime minister is more explicit and realistic than ever in the political choices and economic trade-offs of the future.”
TheCityUK, a financial services lobby, praised her for offering “a detailed and practical proposal, and should put aside any suggestion that the UK has no clear intention and ambition”.
Cherry picking? To some extent – but she has a simple answer to that. Each deal involves some cherry picking, and the European Union is taking a different approach to deals with South Korea and Canada.