ABI urges Brexit progress

The government must stop over-complicating a transitional Brexit deal and agree a straightforward transitional now, says, Huw Evans, director general of the ABI.

Speaking at the ABI’s annual dinner tonight, ahead of its Annual Conference tomorrow, he will argue that ‘the time for hard bargaining is surely over the terms of the final deal, not the interim period, especially when…it is so important for clarity with customers on issues such as the EHIC and travel insurance and Motor/fleet insurance and green cards.’

He will also warn that a ‘transitional agreement reached at the 11th hour as part of horse trading over the final agreement will be of no value to businesses that have had to implement contingency plans by then instead.’

The ABI points out that the UK is the world’s largest exporter of insurance products and exports more than the entirety of Asia combined. It employs over 320,000 people in the UK, two-thirds outside London and during 2013-15, the UK exported £11.58 of insurance and pensions services on average for each £1 that it imported. By comparison the UK exported just 70 pence worth of trade in goods for every £1 imported.

The full Brexit-related extracts from Huw’s speech are: ‘The process of departing the EU and forging a new path is inevitably complicated and challenging for all concerned, whatever our view on the desirability of the outcome. But if I can be blunt for a moment, there is one challenge that is still staring us in the face – the urgent need for a transitional agreement to take us beyond March 2019. Before Christmas, by that point having argued for such an agreement for over 15 months – like many others in this room – I was encouraged by the preliminary deal which looked to finalise the terms of a standstill transition by March this year. Since then, we seem to have gone backwards with, at times, our own Government seeking to over complicate a deal by putting extra demands on the table such as extra restrictions on EU citizens.

‘The time for hard bargaining is surely over the terms of the final deal, not the interim period, especially when an early agreement is needed to help businesses and regulators manage the huge changes involved and is so important for clarity with customers on issues such as the EHIC and travel insurance and Motor and fleet insurance and green cards. So my message to the Government and MPs tonight is simple; ‘please, get on with it’. A transitional agreement only reached at the 11th hour as part of horse trading over the final agreement will be of no value to businesses that have had to implement contingency plans by then instead. We need a straightforward transitional and we need it now.
‘Exactly what follows Brexit is rightly a matter for democratically elected politicians to decide. But I hope in the debate ahead about financial services and future access to the EU that policymakers remember that two thirds of insurance and long-term savings jobs are outside London. Whatever the outcome, if we want to retain our place as a world-leading centre of insurance & long-term saving, as the biggest market in Europe, and with London as the international insurance capital of the world, we need to start thinking hard now about how we maximise growth, embrace innovation and attract the best talent and highest quality capital. This is a job for us all; market participants, regulators, politicians and partners. The position we enjoy today is because previous generations seized opportunities and refused to be bound by old certainties. All of us need to find the courage to do the same and have a substantive debate about the choices ahead.’