There’s a lot of talk about Brexit at the moment, with all the political parties promoting their version of it and the Lib Dems even proposing yet another referendum to determine the type of Brexit we get.
While the broad issues surrounding Brexit are important, the devil will be in the detail. In my consultations with members, their concerns are very specific to the sports and play industries; seemingly small changes to how we trade could profoundly impact their businesses.
There are three items on our members’ wish-list which we share with virtually every other UK industry:
that the government must aim for a workable EU trade agreement
that new tariffs are avoided to allow continued market access, and;
that the free movement of workers and reciprocal rights are maintained
But beyond these broader themes, what’s worrying our members the most are issues around alignment and harmonisation. If the UK moves too much out of sync with our EU neighbours as regards standards, testing and regulations, trade with these countries could be problematic.
Take, for example, UK’s membership of CEN – the European committee for standardisation. If we’re at the table we can help to ensure that future standards continue to be aligned. But if our membership is refused, we could have difficulties selling in Europe with massive implications for the industry.
Similarly, it is in our interests to lobby for Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) regulations to remain as harmonised as possible; separate rules for the UK would make trading with Europe particularly challenging, with those member states potentially not recognising our standards and testing.
And, of course, unless we can establish a customs code which replicates the Union Customs Code (UCC), our documents and processes will be so out of sync with our neighbours that we will end up paying more to import and export.
So how can the FSPA help? Well, we’re the only body representing the interests of the sports and play sectors in the UK. This matters because without our voice in government our specific needs could be overlooked. Issues which might appear insignificant to those outside our industry – but which have the potential to be real stumbling blocks for our members – are being addressed.
I regularly meet with a representative from the Department for Exiting the European Union, taking members’ concerns with me. Each specific point is referred to the relevant department with a view to a meeting in the near future. This way, no issue that I present, no matter how ‘niche’, can be ignored and we’re getting in touch with the right contacts in government.
Of course, it’s going to be a long haul as we extricate ourselves from the EU. But we’ll be working behind the scenes to make sure that, as far as is possible, we can retain as much in common with Europe as we need to be able to successfully continue trading.