'Signifcant' amount of work to be done as Brexit deadline looms

The UK will officially leave the EU on March 29, 2019
Gareth McKeown

A REGIONAL economist has said there is a "significant" amount of work to be done a year out from the UK officially leaving the European Union.

Danske Bank chief economist, Conor Lambe insists we are still not Brexit-ready ahead of the 2019 deadline, with a number of issues still outstanding that remain a cause for concern.

“There is still no agreed solution on how a hard border will be avoided between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland," he said.

"With maintaining membership of the EU customs union – which would have gone part of the way to solving the problem – ruled out by the UK Government, other solutions will need to be identified. Most of the focus of the discussions related to Northern Ireland that will take place over the coming weeks is likely to be placed on the ‘backstop' option."

Mr Lambe believes the future trade deal is arguably the most important aspect of the Brexit negotiations and the timeframe for an agreement is "very tight".

“With a year left to run until Brexit day, the chances of a no deal scenario coming to fruition in 12 months are now less than they were just a few months ago. But unfortunately, they are not yet zero. Businesses are still facing a cloud of uncertainty when it comes to their future long-term access to EU markets. While the progress made recently is welcome, the UK Government must keep up the pace in the negotiations. There is no time to lose.”

Meanwhile a leading pollster believes voters are more pessimistic about Brexit, but few have changed their minds about whether the UK should remain part of the European Union.

Sir John Curtice, who correctly predicted the Conservatives would lose their majority in the 2017 general election, said there is "far from sufficient evidence" that a second referendum would reverse the result of the original vote.

Analysis of polling since the 2016 ballot shows "increased pessimism" about the likely outcome of the withdrawal talks - but little shift in voter intentions, according to the University of Strathclyde academic.

In a report published by The UK in a Changing Europe, which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), to mark one year to exit day, he said the country is still "deeply divided".

"The current poll estimate that 52 per cent might now vote for Remain is far from sufficient evidence to be sure that a second ballot would see a reversal of the original result," he said.

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