Anastassia Beliakova, head of trade policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, is one of the most respected figures when it comes to Brexit and represents the views of companies from across the UK to Government.
She was speaking at an event organised by the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce’s Brexit Club and the West Midlands Conservative MEPs at Coombe Abbey.
It was the third major session on Brexit staged by the Chamber in recent weeks as talks with the EU have reached a critical point.
Anastassia spoke alongside David Burton (the chair of the Brexit Club) Anthea McIntyre MEP and Councillor Gary Ridley (the leader of the Coventry Conservatives) at the event which followed the Chamber’s Brexit meetings at MIPIM and the recent #CWRocks expo.
She told the group that the agreement on the transition period between the EU and the UK had provided welcome certainty for the next three years and that companies could expect greater detail on a final deal by the end of 2018.
Anastassia said: “There has been progress and now we have some certainty for the next three years during transition but when it comes to the final agreement, it’s all still to play for.
“There appear to be more options on the table than there were only a few months ago. We have been told what the UK Government doesn’t want – it doesn’t want a deal like Canada or Norway but now, to some extent, we can start to see what it is looking for.
“It wants no new tariffs – which is also in the interests of the EU. It wants continued associated membership of some EU agencies and projects.
“It wants only one set of approvals for each other’s markets and business certainly does not want to see two sets of clearances.
“We know the government does not want to be in either the Customs Union or a customs union and is looking at an approach that involves technology or a novel and innovative solution. The question is: will there be sufficient time and discussion between the two sides to implement these customs arrangements?
“There has been an interesting development in Brussels recently where MEPs voted for a resolution that the UK and the EU should consider an association partnership, which could provide the kind of solution the UK is looking for.”
Anthea McIntyre, Conservative employment spokesman and MEP for the West Midlands, said the region's businesses would continue to require workers of all skill levels from overseas after Brexit.
She said about one third of migrant labour in the West Midlands was from the EU, while three quarters of manufacturing businesses employed at least one EU national.
Miss McIntyre stressed: "Employers still need labour of all skill levels. The government and the Prime Minister have been clear that we want EU nationals to be able to continue to live and work in the UK and we want to see the same deal for UK nationals in the EU."
"Until March next year, there will be absolutely no change and, after that, we’d encourage companies to assist members of staff from the EU to apply for settled status.”
She added: “We thank the Chamber for its support in setting up this meeting and for attracting so many businesses, who are clearly engaged on the topic of Brexit.”
David Burton, chair of the Brexit Club, said: “We held sessions at the Chamber’s recent #CWRocks Expo, at MIPIM and then here with our MEPs.
“The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce grasped the initiative on Brexit – even before the vote was taken – and that means our business community is as well-informed as anyone can possibly be on Brexit.”