Members of the retail industry have responded in the wake of Theresa May’ve move this week to trigger Article 50. Here are some of the main points they made.

Future trade relationships

Helena Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC [IRDX VBRC], said it was important for consumers to continue to enjoy the choice and quality of goods that cross-border tariff-free trade, whether that was achieved by reaching a new trading relationship quickly to having a phased deal.

Looking beyond the EU, she said: “It’s encouraging that the Government recognises that the UK has a role to play as a champion of free and open trade. Our priority is to make sure the terms of our trade relationship with the EU are right before seeking new deals with other countries. Securing a positive new customs arrangement which enables mutually beneficial opportunities for trade with the EU and the rest of the world, will be crucial to ensuring British shoppers aren’t hit with the costs of unwanted import tariffs at a time when the pound is already weakened. Therefore, ensuring a phased implentation that will maintain a free and open trading environment until a new trade deal can be put in place is essential.”

Skills

Dickinson also says a focus on skills will be important for the future, given that the retail industry currently relies on 120,000 EU nationals who work in roles from the boardroom to distribution centres and customer service.

“Workers from the European Union are part of the reason that British retailers are often able to deliver affordable and high-quality goods,” she said. “UK’s post-Brexit labour and immigration policy, should therefore be framed to enable domestic firms, including retailers themselves, to access the skills they need. Not only would this help our…