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Preparing for Brexit 

It is less than 5 months until Brexit and the Article 50 deadline on 29 March 2019, and whilst rumours abound of deals, unfortunately – from a business perspective – the spectre of a non-orderly withdrawal outcome remains fully in view. With a few exceptions, it is a wide and deep business consensus that such a no-deal outcome would be an extremely disruptive negative outcome for economic operators on both sides of the Channel. It’s worth repeating – from a business perspective – no deal is the worst deal for everyone.

If there is no withdrawal deal, one might hope there will be side deals covering key issues such as aviation or data, but this cannot be guaranteed, particularly if negotiations break down badly. Consequences will be unpredictable, both politically and economically.

Irrespective of that, we can expect significant disruption at all UK/EU borders – notably with France, Belgium, the Netherlands and in main airports. This is a simple function of the UK leaving the Customs Union and the Single Market without a ready replacement legal framework and with the systems developed to take over.

The situation of the Irish Border in the case of no deal is also unclear – both sides have committed to no ‘hard border’, though both sides may have legal obligations under both EU law in the case of Ireland, and under the WTO in the case of the UK to undertake customs and regulatory checks. Once the UK has left the EU Customs Union and Single Market, there will have to be checks and formalities for goods, the only question is where these checks will take place and exactly what formalities will be applicable.

Preparedness notices from both the EU and the UK Government have flagged the respective legal provisions at the moment of the UK leaving the EU, but do not give a clear roadmap for affected businesses in the case of a collapse of the withdrawal negotiations or a non-ratification by the respective parliaments.

At a minimum, companies should be looking at the potential impact on their supply chains of a potential raising of regulatory and customs barriers, possible queues on both sides of the border as new systems and formalities are introduced, as well as the possible restriction of freedom of movement for staff. On a sector by sector basis, the cessation of regulatory arrangement and licensing may also create new barriers to market.

The British Chamber of Commerce | EU & Belgium will stay close to the UK Government, the EU institutions and the Belgian Authorities during this challenging period. We are the go to organisation that authorities are asking for feedback from on business concerns. Get in touch, use our platform and share your concerns, specific or otherwise so that we can get them to the right people.

Matt Hinde, Fleishman Hillard, and Morten Petersen, EPPA, Co-Chairs of the Future Relations Committee

If you have more questions about the prospect of a no deal Brexit, you can find more information on our website page – What to do if there is no deal?

Our next Brexit event – Brexit and Future Relations – An Update on the Irish Perspective – will take place on the 20th November. You can find more information on our website.

 

 

Like every autumn in Brussels, this one didn’t disappoint with regard to its packed schedule, and we would like to believe that we didn’t either!

We kicked off with the discussion on Cartel Enforcement: Current Practice and Updates where we learned that since February 2018, companies breaching antitrust regulations by taking part in cartels has resulted in hundreds of million in fines, while ¾ of cartel cases originate from leniency applications.

On a different note, Kate Kalutkiewicz updated our members on the state of play with regard to EU-US Trade Deals. A special emphasis was put on China and the current state of trade relations with the US, as an increasing threat of a trade war looms between both countries, plus we discussed the reform of the Dispute Settlement System in the WTO and the view of the US on the Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA). More specific trade sectors were also examined, such as chemicals, aluminium and car company regulations.

We also hosted a panel debate on eHealth – Engendering Health Systems’ Sustainability. The positive impact that eHealth can have on EU member States’ Health Systems was stressed throughout the discussion between the panellists and the participants. A wider implementation of digital health across the EU would allow, amongst others, tremendous savings resulting from the use of mobile health applications. A better pooling of data at the EU level would also have huge benefits, reducing for instance the time to diagnose rare disease. The main issue in this field arises from data privacy, record linkage and a lack of incentives from both doctors and governments to use digital technologies.

Under the Future Relations Committee, the chamber organised three events, starting with the roundtable debate with legal industry and the UK Justice Minister on EU-UK Civil Judicial Cooperation, Lucy Frazer. At this event we had the opportunity to discuss how the UK’s withdrawal from the EU has created many legal complications due to the intertwining of UK and EU law. It can be seen as one of the largest areas to negotiate in the agreement as companies wish for the legal protection to remain consistent, or at least to have a large enough transition period so that the adjustment is smooth. The second event saw Philip Rycroft, DExEU Permanent Secretary, give an Update of the UK EU Exit planning process, and finally we hosted the UK Ambassador to Belgium, Alison Rose, who updated us on the current situation in the negotiation process.

Our last event in September was organised with our members Digital Together, who took part in the workshop Digital Movers and Consumers. The objective was to initiate the creation of a dialogue between digital businesses, non-digital businesses, consumer associations, policy makers and other stakeholders to ensure that all viewpoints are shared to help formulate appropriate future regulation and legislation in the digital space in Europe.

Just two days before a crucial Parliamentary vote, we hosted a debate on Single Use Plastics , where many concerns and issues for industry were raised, in particular the issue on the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and its lack of clarity.

Our FDI Screening Mechanisms event kept our members informed, helping us to understand that the EU has no single Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) screening mechanism, but several states in the EU have their own screening mechanism, which are strongly related to national security.

Finally, to finish the month of October, we organised a discussion on eCommerce after Coty and beyond, during which we heard about the Coty decision, which saw the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling that luxury good suppliers may prohibit the online sale of their goods by authorised retailers on third-party platform (such as Amazon) – a fascinating example of the intricacy of the enforcement of e-commerce rules.

If you want to learn more about our events, please visit our website, read our detailed event reports or join us at one in the future.

Bernada Cunj

Head of EU Events and Policy

The British Chamber of Commerce | EU & Belgium

On Thursday 25th October, the British Chamber’s CEO Glenn Vaughan met with Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab for a landmark meeting alongside representatives from chambers across Europe. Glenn shares his thoughts following the meeting:

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There’s no certainty – but more clarity and confidence can be built

Last Thursday I was part of a delegation of national chambers of commerce that met Secretary of State, Dominic Raab, Brexit Minister Robin Walker and the top officials from his department. Countries represented were Germany, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark – as well as Britain.

The message from our own members was supported by detail from our expert Future Relations Committee, and echoed loudly by national chambers representing 70% of all EU-UK trade:

  • No-deal is not an option – for either side. It would create very severe disruption for everyone.
  • When a withdrawal agreement is finalised, the next phase of negotiations must proceed quickly. There’s no room for a leisurely go-slow while the EU manages its institutional changeover or London lines up its ducks.
  • Regulatory alignment is extremely important if we are to get close to ‘frictionless trade’ in a future agreement.

The need for certainty underlies everything we have to say, but right now it is a long way off. Each new piece of progress only reveals the next cause of uncertainty. An agreement at a hoped for November European summit will need to be approved, especially in the UK parliament.  Once a withdrawal agreement is sealed, that’s the point from which we can start to work towards clarity – step by step.

We expect both the UK and the EU to take that opportunity to specify a clear destination and make clear and practical steps towards it, building confidence as they go. Another period of putting off decisions, until the next cliff edge is reached, is no good for anyone.

Eva Paunova is a Bulgarian MEP in the EPP and is a member of the IMCO committee. We caught up with her a couple of weeks ago for another insight into the day to day lives of MEPs at the European Parliament.

No day is ever the same for a MEP: I cannot sleepwalk through even a minute of it, I’m constantly challenged, constantly alert. It’s the greatest privilege of my job and definitely one of the reasons why I love doing it. Allow me to elaborate…

24th of May 2016

The 24th of May is a special day in Bulgarian culture – it commemorates the brothers Cyril and Methodius, whom we credit with inventing and popularising the Cyrillic alphabet, thus effectively transforming the Bulgarian state and society into a modern, Christian one (well, as modern as a society could possibly be in 884 A.D.). More generally, it is a celebration of Bulgarian culture and literature, and the teachers, lecturers, authors and journalists who preserve and expand it. It is also, more importantly, my parents’ 31st wedding anniversary, so not waking up early enough to be the first one to congratulate them in their own time zone was out of the question.

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Morning

8.00 – On the rare days I don’t need to rush to the office, my day starts with a home-made smoothie and a quick browse through the early news. Not today – at 8am I had already skyped in to a Bulgarian morning show, where I talked about the importance of quality education and introduced ‘Education Bulgaria 2030’ – a project I founded with a number of local and international stakeholders to tackle low educational achievement and increase opportunities for young people.

8.30 – An all too brief meeting with representatives of the 25 most promising Bulgarian start-ups, on a visit to the Parliament at my invitation. What a lovely, energising way to start the day – 25 bright and ambitious leaders, eager to see a more innovative and connected digital Europe.

9.‎00 – Fresh orange juice on the go (I know, I like to live on the edge!) and time for committee work – attended a discussion on some of the current files and voted on a report on the accessibility of public sector bodies’ websites by the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee.

11.00 – Possibly the highlight of my day! After having spent most of last year speaking about technology at over a hundred events all over Europe, my team and I finally managed to put together a high-level conference on‎ #Regulation4Innovation‎, the common European response to our changing digital landscape. In a two hour debate, moderated by Alex Barker, Brussels FT Bureau Chief, together with Commissioners Moedas and Vestager, the UK Minister for Europe David Lidington, and senior representatives of leading global companies (including Amazon, IBM, Spotify, Uber and CGSH), we ironed out our vision for a 21st century Europe – both business- and consumer-friendly, unencumbered by unnecessary regulation but still true to its values.

Paunova - Juncker

Midday

Out of the conference and immediately into a series of short interviews with media outlets from around the continent, outlining the progress we’ve made. No time for lunch today, but still high on the buzz of seeing people come together to shape the future of the Union. I only really have light lunches anyway – a salad while going through e-mails at my desk or attending a lunch debate with colleagues – unless it happens to be a nice day (a regrettably rare occurrence), when my team and I get the chance to luxuriate in the sun, de-briefing on Place Lux.

14.00 – Arrived at Makerstown, where I opened a panel on Female Entrepreneurship. Shared my experience of running an office as a start-up and the importance of having a female role model. I also had a chance to walk around the Makers’ stands chaperoned by a drone and had the honour of shaking a 3D-printed robot’s hand (a bit clammy!). In the Parliament I work for better access to capital and support for entrepreneurs and innovators, so it is important for me to meet the Makers and have their input on how to make the process simpler, more helpful and effective.

15.00 – I literally had to run ‎back to the Parliament to not miss my speaking slot on the report on Contracts for Supply of Digital Content at the IMCO Committee. It is an important legislative dossier part of the Digital Single Market package, which I have been working on for a while.

17.00 – Took part in the SME Europe board meeting, planning our upcoming initiatives related to Industry 4.0 and the Investment Plan for Europe.

 

Evening

 

18.00 – Six month ago I was invited by Commissioner Thyssen to support the Pact for Youth initiative, a joint agreement by businesses and EU leaders to develop or consolidate partnerships in support of youth employability and inclusion. Today stakeholders from all sectors gathered to measure progress. The initiative is already operational all across Europe and aims to create over 100 000 opportunities for young people by 2020‎ – including quality internships, traineeships and entry-level jobs in a variety of fields.

 

20.00 – We continued the discussion over dinner with the Commissioner and 20 CEOs of multinational businesses and organisations, agreeing on the need for a skilled and well-trained workforce, as well as for a modern educational infrastructure attuned to the demands of the labour market. Currently there are 70 million Europeans who lack basic reading and writing skills; digital skills are yet to cross the 50% threshold and that’s hurting European competitiveness on the world stage. Initiatives such as Pact for Youth and Education Bulgaria 2030 are vital if we want to remain at the forefront of the digital revolution and the business opportunities it does and will continue to provide.

 

22.00 – En route home, going through emails and updating my Twitter and Facebook pages, so that I can dedicate the evening to spending some precious time with my fiancé (he doesn’t get to see much of me these days, but gets to enjoy my full attention when I’m there). When I don’t have an evening engagement we always try to go to the gym or go swimming together, or eat out at one of the few top culinary spots Brussels has to offer.

This week it’s the second installment of our Day in the Life of an MEP’s Assistant. Alina Totti, Assistant to Claudia Tapardel who is part of the S&D party.

Alina Totti

In trying to describe a typical day in the life of an MEP assistant I was presented with a very big challenge – having the actual time to sit down and write something. However, since I also want my two seconds of fame in the Eurobubble, I decided to make the time and offer a glimpse into my daily activities. I wondered, though, – how honest should I be in describing my relationship with this position? Because like the best relationships, it is both passionate and complicated…

To begin with a cliche: there is no such thing as a typical day at the parliament. On a quiet day I can finally read a report about the reduction of rail noise in Europe and reply to the couple of hundred unread emails in my inbox. Other days I spend 12 hours writing two speeches, a press release and meeting four lobby groups with four different ideas about the European Aviation Strategy. Both and many more combinations are possible.

9:00 (ish) –  By this time I am in the office, having already read the Politico Playbook and a couple of newsletters on the bus to work. This means I have the small talk covered for possible conferences later that day.

The first thing I do is write a list of my tasks for the day. This is probably one of the best tips I ever received in my professional life and also what I would recommend to anyone working on a lot of topics. Not only because it helps me structure my day and clears my mind, but also because ticking the boxes after completing a task is one of the most gratifying feelings. Normally, this list means replying to emails, reading a transport-related report and summarizing it for my MEP, writing a speech for an event back in Romania and meeting representatives from various organisations. On top of that, there is usually a TRAN committee meeting.

10:00 – Time for an unexpected meeting with another MEP who wishes to organise an event about the problem with seasonality in tourism. As my MEP is very passionate about the subject, we agree to co-host the debate in two months. That means we have to book a room, find speakers, make a poster and organise the catering. Thank God we have trainees.

11:00 – A committee meetings is where you get to see politics in motion, MEPs arguing with each other – politely of course – and also where you receive an unlimited number of water bottles. I sit in the back of the room and take notes together with the other assistants.

13:00 – I somehow manage to run to a conference about transport decarbonisation. I find this very useful for the files we are working on, plus I enjoy talking to people and taking cards. Someone asks me (again) if I am a trainee… I am quite jealous of the assistants who can grow a beard.

14:00 – Many afternoons are filled with stakeholder meetings – hotel associations, truck drivers unions etc. Some I attend with my MEP, others it is just me and my serious face. I must say I really enjoy this part of my job. You can learn a lot from people who have often spent years promoting a cause. As I listen to them I already start visualising amendments to the legislative proposals we are working on.

16:00 – Finally the time to write a speech. I love to go through my research, determine with my MEP the position we want to take and build a convincing story. The last speech I wrote was about what European integration brought to Romania.

18:00 – Still writing. I am wondering if anyone can hear that I have Nordic black metal playing in my headphones.

19:00 – There is no denying that I love my job, but there is a special feeling I get when I hear the sound of the computer shutting down. It is time to go home, but that doesn’t mean I don’t squeeze some files into my purse so I can (willingly) read more at home…

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Last Week, the chamber hosted its conference on the Digital Single Market conference. Moderated by Chair of the EU Committee, James Stevens, the conference saw keynote speeches from Commissioner Günther Oettinger: Juhan Lepassaar, Head of Cabinet to Andrus Ansip and Robert Madelin, EPSC as well as featuring representatives from Business and Industry, trade bodies and Members of the European Parliament.

4 Takeaways from Commissioner Oettinger’s speech

Europe is still lagging behind…

Europe has the skills and can boast plenty of success stories in the tech sector but we are still far behind. The creative platforms we have around us – apps, social media, new services: Not enough of these are coming from Europe. This is something we need to reverse.

Digital Single Market now

For decades we have been developing a common European market covering a broad spectrum of sectors, giving a clear advantage to our industries in the context of the biggest market in world. There is no argument whatsoever against enlarging the benefits of the common market to the digital sector. Such benefits are expected to be much bigger if one looks to the markets of Europe’s associated partners such as Ukraine or Turkey. Fixing the regulatory fragmentation is the key issue: we do not need 28 national silos. In this respect, the general data protection regulation adopted a few months ago is the example to be followed.

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A gigabyte society

The Digital Single Market cannot become a reality without adequate infrastructures. Europe must aim for a gigabyte society if it wants to avoid failure. In order to make the most of booming sectors such as the development of the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine, or e–health, Europe cannot keep leveraging on 30 Mbps or 100 Mbps forever. It should start thinking of networks capable of reaching speeds of 500mbps or higher.

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Digital Divide(s)

Europe is still grappling with two types of digital divide. The first concerns the connectivity gap between rural and metropolitan areas, which in turn requires more comprehensive investment strategies in digital infrastructures. The second lies between European citizens with digital skills and those who lack technological education. Member states should give more priority to the digital education of their citizens: the European Commission will step up its efforts to help them set up related policies on digital skills.

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DSM: Bridging the Gap -Media Partner

You can catch the rest of the highlights on our Twitter feed

Last year, we featured a few pieces from MEP’s in our ‘A Day in the life of…’ series and this week, Adam Terry – Political Officer to Anneliese Dodds MEP at the European Parliament, gives his insight into life as an MEP’s assistant.

Describe a typical day in the life of an MEP’s assistant, you say?  It’s probably best to start off by saying that there is no such thing.  For a start, which day of the week is it?  If it’s a Monday, then there might be a bit of time in the morning to catch my breath and focus on some longer-term projects.  If it’s a Tuesday or a Wednesday, I’ll be lucky to find five minutes to grab a much-needed coffee.  And then what type of week is it?  A plenary week in Strasbourg, a policy-heavy Committee week or a politics-heavy Group week?  All of these things will shape what kind of day I’m about to have – and that’s without the unexpected impact of Harold Macmillan’s famous “events, dear boy, events”.  For argument’s sake, let’s pick a Tuesday in Committee week…

08.30: I’ll do my best to get in before the full madness of the day has begun, to go through press round-up emails and keep an eye out for developments in the areas my MEP is most interested in.  For Anneliese, that means the latest on tax avoidance and evasion, fixing the financial system post-crisis, and (no doubt for every Brit in the Parliament at the moment…) the UK referendum debate.

09.00: Time to head down to the ECON Committee room and see what’s happening.  It could be a hearing with a Commissioner, central bank governor or another economics celebrity.  If Anneliese has speaking time, I will have made sure to provide her with the facts and figures she needs to ask a clear, concise question and (hopefully) get a clear, concise answer back!

12.30: Time for a lunch meeting with stakeholders.  Whatever Anneliese is working on, she will want to be aware of what all the major interested parties have to say about it.  She will want to hear a broad range of opinions – from civil society and NGOs, from her constituents, from government and regulators, and from industry – to ensure she is as well-informed as possible.  I’ll make sure she is well-briefed ahead of the meeting, and keep track of how we might need to follow up.

14.00: A chance to sit at my desk.  The blessing and the curse of the smartphone means I’m able to keep an eye on emails throughout the day, but it’s nice to have a moment in front of my computer to look properly at what’s come in.  I’ll get a chance to catch up on some ECON work and to help the team in the UK answer some of the many thousands of emails Anneliese receives from her constituents.  In the meantime, it will be my colleagues’ turn to staff Anneliese – perhaps supporting her in her role as Chair of the Delegation to Montenegro, or working up a press release or lines to take for an upcoming interview.

15.00: Before too long, it’s back to the Committee room – this time for an exchange of views on one of the many pieces of legislation that pass through the ECON Committee.  If it’s a report where Anneliese is rapporteur or shadow, I’ll have made sure to find out as much as I can in advance about the other groups’ positions and the areas where we might be able to compromise.  The aim is always a report that reflects our S&D values, while gathering enough support from other groups in order to pass that crucial vote.

18.30: Back to the desk and a chance to catch up on everything that has come up during the day, and to start scribbling tomorrow’s to do list.  I’ll look back on today’s to do list, and if it’s been a good day a fair chunk of it will be satisfyingly crossed off in red pen.  If life has thrown a few too many surprises at me, then a lot of today’s list will get transferred straight over to tomorrow’s…

19.30: Time to head home, after a long day which nevertheless seems to have flown by.  There’s certainly no watching the clock in this job.  As I close the door to our office, Anneliese will still be in hers, typing away and preparing to go and give a speech at an event somewhere else.  There are three of us who work for her in Brussels, and we all work flat-out to do so.  How she manages to do everything that’s asked of her, on her own, is beyond me…

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