LONDON — Britain will not be ready to trade on a global scale after leaving the European Union, a leading employment lawyer said.
Brexiteers claim that one of the biggest positives to come from leaving the EU will be the ability to strike new trade deals with countries all over the world.
Prime Minister Theresa May described Brexit as an opportunity for Britain to become a “great, global trading nation” in her January keynote speech.
Leaving the EU’s single market — Britain’s biggest exports market — means UK businesses will be forced to enter new markets across the world to do business.
However, most British businesses simply aren’t equipped to take on this challenge, according to Michael Sippitt, chairman of London-based law firm Clarkslegal.
Speaking to Business Insider this week, Sippitt said there will be a “gap” between the government’s aspirations for post-Brexit trade and what the country can actually achieve once it drops out of the single market.
“There is enthusiasm expressed by the politicians for working with the rest of the world and improving global trade but that’s a big challenge for businesses who are not accustomed to working in those markets. That is where the gap will arise between the aspirations of the government and what Britain actually achieves.
“This is a long play. It cannot be a quick win. Working in markets which are much further away and we’re not familiar with will be much harder than working with the market close by. I perceive that many small to medium-sized businesses do have an interest do this but they don’t have the experience. They will face big challenges in global trade and need more help to increase UK success in world markets.”
In order to address this problem, Sippitt believes May’s government should taking steps now to give small to medium-sized enterprises the skillset and expertise they need to compete in new international markets or risk putting the national economy in jeopardy.
“I work a lot with the Commonwealth and with the Commonwealth markets. If one of the aims of Brexit is to open up opportunities to trade in the wider world then this is a challenge to UK businesses, because apart from large multinationals who are accustomed to world trade, most people in the UK work in small to medium enterprises that do not have good experience of working across the world and they need to develop that skillset.
“There is a really big need for the UK to be encouraging its small to medium-sized enterprises to be developing the skills and capabilities and confidence to work in world markets more than they have done in the past. This would make a material difference to how quickly we can be successful.”
Liam Fox’s Department for International Trade has begun “high-level dialogue” with at least 15 countries about potential future trade deals, the International Business Times reported this week.
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