After Theresa May’s first Brexit deal was resoundingly rejected by a huge majority in Parliament, the possibility of leaving the European Union without any agreement in place went from being unthinkable to a situation the UK could easily find itself in on 29th March.
The Prime Minister has returned to the drawing board and will – at the time of writing – present her ‘plan B’ to MPs in Parliament on 29th January. No doubt to increase the chances of this revised deal being accepted, Mrs May has asked for the help of a number of political party leaders. However, she is yet to convince Jeremy Corbyn to participate in these discussions. He wants the Prime Minister to completely rule out a no-deal Brexit before he joins the talks – but all of this changes by the hour of course.
Mr Corbyn’s unwillingness to even talk about accepting a no-deal could possibly win him the support of influential voices in the business and contracting world. Like the Labour leader, these representatives of the enterprise and staffing communities have made it clear that no-deal is an unacceptable conclusion to Brexit.
Chairman of The FSB, Mike Cherry, has added his voice to a number of business leaders who have stressed the importance of a resolution. He urged politicians to “come together”, “urgently find a way forward from this alarming Brexit stalemate” and show the kind of “innovation, flexibility and can-do spirit” that entrepreneurs and business owners possess to overcome challenges.
Similar thoughts were expressed by the recruitment industry, a sector that contractors rely on heavily for sourcing projects. REC’s Chief Executive, Neil Carberry, said “political paralysis is already impacting firms”, adding that recruiters need a “deal with a clear transition period and a sensible approach to EU immigration, which will help to calm economic fears.”
Politically speaking, the UK is in “no man’s land”, says CEO of Qdos, Seb Maley. For contractors, the potential immediate removal of the transition period poses an urgent threat to contractors working on projects overseas, the IR35 expert explained; “Clearly, this would jeopardise the position of the thousands of freelancers and contractors working in the EU and paying tax here in the UK.”
He also addressed the growing concerns that global companies could up sticks and leave these shores given a no-deal will certainly mean the UK loses access to the Single Market. Should this happen, he said it “could impact the number of opportunities for these workers in the UK.”
Similar concerns have been expressed by IPSE’s economic policy advisor, Ryan Barnett, who stressed; “For the sake of freelancers and the wider country, the Government must avoid a no-deal Brexit and also prioritise the self-employed in any renewed negotiations with the EU.”
Regardless of whether the UK manages to negotiate a deal with the EU, the Brexit burden means the Government must reconsider its intention to introduce IR35 reform in the private sector next year, asserts Dave Chaplin, CEO of Contractor Calculator; “Implementing the reforms is burdensome for firms, which is why they are planning on exempting small businesses. But in our experience, it’s even more so for large firms that have hundreds if not thousands of contingent workers – all of whom need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.”
He went on to say that if Brexit is delayed – which at this moment in time is still very much a possibility – the Government must “see sense and not implement the changes in April 2020 as previously announced.”
Day by day, the prospect of a no-deal – an end result to Brexit which seemed unimaginable at the time of the referendum in 2016 – becomes something the UK must quickly come to terms with as a reality. The implications of this are widely thought to be dire and pose a risk to contracting and the wider economy.
The world watches on, shaking its head in disbelief as the saga continues…